Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Beneath the word Muslim: A Response to Islamophobia

What do you think when you hear the word "Muslim?"

When I was young, I learned by my mom that to be a Muslim was to be compassionate and therefore I think of kindness.

I have met those that say "I'm Muslim" yet spare only a few grams of compassion, employing nothing above the word Muslim itself to back their claim. (Can you guess how they treated me?) I have also met those that say that they are Muslim and spill kilograms of compassion in their wake. (Can you guess how they treated me?)

Islam isn't a religion of hatred, of do-or-die principles or of gender inequality. There are those that believe it to be so, though, from those that ran a modernized patriarchy (They congratulated you on your education before reminding your family to be husband-submissive.) to those abusing life partners and joining terrorist groups, all employing the word Islam. In my last sentence, though, I was not complete. I now speak about a parallel scale of grey, Islamophobia.

I cannot address the wave of those that preach Islamophobia better than Rabah Kherbane in his article A Muslim's Response to the 25,000 Anti-Islamic Protesters in Germany in the Huffington Post in mid-January: "Did you know that your twisted misrepresentation of my religion helps the terrorists? Did you know that you and the terrorists agree on what seems to form an integral part of your identity: that Islam is violent? Did you know that you even use the same methodology to proclaim this; taking a verse out of context and evading any intellectual discourse?"

I think about the niqab (veil) ban recently lifted in citizenship ceremonies here in Canada. Ideas of accommodation and compromise were suggested. I will be honest. There are those in this country whose male elders have threatened into putting a veil over their face. Their lives differ, though, from those that choose to wear a hiab or abaaya or niqab. Some of my friends told me how excited they were when they first started wearing a hijab. Three of my close friends wear abaayas. One just started her own humanitarian organization, another makes me smile with mentions of my watermelon 'obsession' and I could share a laugh with another one any time as we sat together in two classes last year. The aunt that encouraged me to look into engineering matches her hijabs with her clothes. It should therefore not be about the clothing but about the person.

I think about how the Canadian Prime Minster suggested that radicalization begin in the mosque. I twice entered a mosque where the imam lectured about putting Muslims first. One of those times, the imam stated that democracy would not win and another time talked about a Muslim insulting a non-Muslim. But I also visited a mosque where the imam lectured over the speakers that gender inequality didn't belong in Islam and exclaimed a few weeks later, "The goal of Islam is not to put down other religions!" I don't think it's mosques themselves that cause radicalization but rather a variety of intermixing factors. The Calgary imam Syed Soharwardy stated, “We know there are elements who are recruiting, who are brainwashing people. There are people who are recruiting these young Muslim boys. For sure, they are recruiting in our communities: in mosques, in universities, through lectures, through community events.” An in-depth look into multiple structures is required to understand the roots of radicalization rather than a claim of no evidence.

Just as Autism Speaks cannot represent Autism, just as the majority of models do not represent a healthy population, those that use a gun in the name of Islam do not represent Islam. It is an insult to my religion. Furthermore I now anticipate the day I hear the wave of Islamophobia in my face. What will happen to my friends in hijabs and Islamic last names?

Don't forget that there will be those that say they put in a token but only dropped a heavy piece of plastic. There will be those that say they put in a token but jaywalked into the bus bay, not a step near the passenger entrance. But there are those that say they put in a token and run at the sight of their bus, the bronze-and-silver of the token glinting in the station light.

- FA

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