Dear (non-Muslim) America — A Guest Post

February 12, 2017

Dear (non-Muslim) America,
We need to talk. Candidly.
Our current elected president is fighting to ban Muslims (in a way that benefits him financially, of course) who would travel to the US from Libya, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. The American people roared in protest of this injustice- for the first time in my consciousness, Muslim people were given value and precedence. #NoBanNoWall is still trending.
It felt good. I stood in the DFW Airport on the first night the ban went into effect, and I too roared. I felt connected to every person in that terminal, each of us trying to protest for the rights of the detainees.
That night felt like an anomaly, but it was a catalyst for other anomalous occurrences- celebrities tweeted in support of Muslims, GOP officials voiced their disdain for 45’s stance, and it seemed that maybe America was ready to embrace its Muslim population.
And maybe it is- part of the American majority is kind, and tolerant, and most importantly, vocal in their support for us.
But things are never as simple as they seem.
This is not the first time Muslims have needed protection from bigotry, elected or civilian in its origin.
I’ve lived through the other side of this trend, and I’ve witnessed its ravaging effects firsthand.
I was 6 years old when the towers fell.
I was 6 when America turned its back to my people.
My dad was detained in Canada at the time, and lost his job shortly thereafter.
Teachers who used to adore me chilled me with their sudden abandonment.
My warrior mom donned hijab for the first time after the attacks, an act of faith and defiance.
Other than a few exceptions, no non-Muslim classmate ever attended my birthday parties for the next few years.
Every terrorist attack, every shooting, every bombing- to this day, Muslims fearfully watch the news and check their phones to determine the ethnic background of the perpetrator.
Traveling through the airport is an insult to every Muslim’s dignity.
Mosques always have security and surveillance set up in case of hate, fire, vandalism, and armed gunmen.
My hijab is a source of endless hateful stares and even outright discrimination.
Representative Jeff Leach of Collin County’s “Anti-Foreign Law Bill” directly targets Muslim populations, and he lied to my face when I asked him if he cared about his Muslim constituents.
Children endure years of bullying, of taunts, of “Go home terrorist!” without reprieve.
And let’s not even talk about Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Somalia, Libya, Iran, Sudan, Yemen, PALESTINE.
We, the Muslim American population, have been under attack for 16 years.
And now, they are trying to ban us.
Where the hell have you been, America? (We have been suffering)
Why speak out now? (Is it trendy? Is it trending, does it feel nice to be one of the “good ones”?)
I have been fighting since I was 6 years old.
Where were you?
(this same question could be posed by black people, Latinx people, LGBTQIA+ people, differently abled people, Jewish people, Asian people, Native American people, on and on and on goes the list of oppressed American communities)
I don’t want to be your Muslim friend.
I don’t want to be part of your hashtag No Ban, No Wall tearjerker Instagram post.
Somehow, right now, I don’t want your acceptance, or your solidarity.
Not now.
Not like this. Because I needed you in 2001.
I needed your vocal acceptance and I wanted your open arms to take me in.
(Obviously I don’t speak of all Americans when I write these words, but I grew up wondering why Allah subhanawatallah made me Muslim, why I couldn’t be white, why my life couldn’t be simple, so obviously somewhere along the line I was taught to HATE myself for being who I am)
America, you had a chance to do a good thing 16 years ago.
And you messed up.
Your silence was as hurtful then as 45’s loud-mouthed Islamophobia is today.
I keep seeing this tweet on posters:

And it’s such a cute sentiment, but y’all?
They already came for Muslims.
Ever heard of the Patriot Act of 2001?
Ever heard of Guantanamo Bay?
Did you ever hear the alternate facts that led to the Iraq War in 2003, or the rationale used by American leaders to justify the use drone strikes on Muslim-majority countries?
Have you ever listened to Glenn Beck, or Ann Coulter, or Bill Maher denounce Muslims on mainstream media outlets?
Did you watch Ironman (2008), or Zero Dark Thirty (2012), or American Sniper (2014)?
Do you binge watch Homeland? Or the new reboot of 24: Legacy?
Do you know the name Deah? Razan?  Or Yusor?
They came over a decade ago, they saw a vulnerable minority community, and they conquered by concocting a media and policy narrative driven by fearmongering and bigotry.
I could go on.
I want to go on, and I don’t at the same time.
Today, I see countless examples of solidarity, and I appreciate it…
But I do not trust it. I step forward, gingerly, because I doubt your solidarity’s integrity, its ability to carry the weight I bear on my two shoulders as a Muslim American.
I go to protests, and people tell me they love me, and I am welcome here.
Do you think, after 16 years of silence, that I will automatically believe you when you proclaim your feelings?
America, you have wronged so many minority communities. We are not the first community you have harmed and we are not going to be the last, but today, I am selfishly speaking of my own experience.
Rejection is a common experience for non-white, non-Christian Americans. We know the discrimination that lies in wait within the American dream, and yet we persevere. Muslim immigrants, refugees, citizens- we are here. We belong.
And because our faith of peace tells us so, we open our arms to a people who did not want us or defend us.
America, you failed us in 2001, and all those years that followed.
But here’s the thing…
America, we’ve got your back in 2017, and all the years to come.
16 years of outrage and indignity have borne a wave of Muslim American activists, lawyers, doctors, teachers, politicians, actors, rappers, athletes, engineers, social workers, nurses, laborers, restaurateurs, entrepreneurs, business CEOs, and artists- the list goes on. All these people who love their country, and want it to prosper.
We Muslims are forbidden from remaining silent in times of injustice and oppression, and we have learned to use our voices and our strength after years of powerlessness.
We embrace you, America, flaws and all. We will shield you as you have shielded us, begrudgingly as it may have been. We will speak out for you, despite our rocky history. We will not go gentle into that good night. Together, with positive action and consistent activism, we will rage against the dying of the light.

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