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Who scares you? I don’t mean what scares you, who? How does the person look like? Anything specific about their appearance? Does it give you a pit in your stomach, makes you cross the street while trying hard to subvert eye contact? And maybe lock the doors in your car a little faster? Perhaps your heart’s beating too fast, you can hear it within your shallow breaths? Would you say that you are… afraid? Fear is a natural and an uncontrollable response but what we do with that fear becomes a choice.
Studies now tell us that 98% of our brains work unconsciously, thinking that it knows best at what it wants to make in our choices; without even giving us time to comprehend what is going on. What affects our conscious brain? How do we process all of this information? From birth, our brain categorizes and internalizes the information that we are bombarded with constantly which affects our thoughts and actions.
And all of us have unconscious biases. What is this called? Phobia.
Defined by a webster dictionary; it is an extreme or irrational fear of or aversion to something. What things trigger your fears? What are your phobias? On September 11, 2001, the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City were struck by two planes that 19 militants associated with the “Islamic” extremist group called ‘al-Qaeda’ had hijacked along with three other planes and carried out other suicide attacks in the United States. One plane hit the Pentagon just outside of Washington, D.
C, and the last plane crashed in a field located in Pennsylvania. Approximately 3,000 people were killed during the 9/11 terrorist attacks. (History.com Editors, February 17, 2010) Now, this is one of the biggest events to happen in world history that in its aftermath, per say, it caused an enormous majority of people to grow this… deep horrifying pit of fear and terror in their stomachs; that feeling I described earlier? They bundled up the growth of… a phobia, and it’s the phobia of having a group/network of radical terrorists (of ‘Islamic’ ‘represent’) enter and terrorize the United States, Canada; the west part of our world. Except as time went on, presumably since the 1990’s, the phobia grew into not just a phobia but also hatred. Deep loathing. And it now not only revolves around the thought of terrorists entering the country, but it also revolves around the idea of Islam and Muslims in general entering/immigrating/migrating to the United States.
To the point where there is no looking at a positive side to Islam and its Muslims. When I was little, I would take my grandmother’s hijab and run around the house with it wrapped around my head. I remember how she would laugh at how silly I looked, hence the fact I never wore it the correct way. Sometimes I take it with me to school and wear it for like a day but not again. My grandmother had been wearing it since she was about 19 years old, and she was 78 at that time. The correct definition of a hijab is a veil worn by some Muslim women in the presence of any male outside of their immediate family, which usually covers the entire hair. Little did I know that wearing the hijab meant the word forever. It wasn’t just this silly joke that I thought of. It symbolized peace, love, religion, pureness, dignity, commitment, strong love for Allah, and a true Muslima. But now, anyone else who sees it thinks the words; sand nigger, terrorist, raghead, ISIS, jihadi, suspect, radical. Those slurs, they now classifies as one of the biggest triggers to a phobia. This phobia… has its own term now, and this term has likely arose at some point in the twentieth century. Some historians have traced it back to about 1910’s. Islamophobia. Defined by a webster dictionary it’s a “dislike of or prejudice against Islam or Muslims, especially as a political force”. A Middle East scholar, Nathan Lean, has stated that Islamophobia originally was referred to “prejudice” against Muslims, not an actual fear of Islam. There have been daily reports of violence, harassment, and intimidation – movements against Muslims in the United States and Canada since the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the November 3 terrorist attacks that killed 130 people in Paris (Christopher Mathias, 2011).
Such as vandalism of Mosques in the state of California (Graffiti of Islamophobic slurs), a 23-year-old man attempted setting fire to a Mosque down in Coachella, California (there as well), thankfully being arrested, although only confirmed as a suspect, was still charged with hate crime. (Dallas Morning News, 2011). Islamophobia includes protests, movements, such as an act where 20 armed protesters gather outside a Mosque in Texas and carried weapons outside of it, which they accused of funding terrorism. (Christopher Mathias, 2011). Another one would be the planned ‘Quran Roast’ in which they burn a majority of copies of the Islam’s religious holy book; Seventy-four people had said on Facebook that they would participate in a Quran burning outside the White House, and it’s a stand “against the treasonous actions done by our government and the radical ideology of Islam.” However, after the group learned it’s a crime to set anything on fire on federal property, only about six or seven people showed up to the actual protest. (Buzzfeed News, 2011) And there’s more. There is so much more and I would tell you that I have seen worse. I have heard worse, I’ve experienced worse. But I’m looking at these Islamophobic movements from the news and… I shrug, push it to the back of my mind. Why? Well, This isn’t something new to me.
Everyday, everywhere, it’s there. Islamophobia never seems to stop no matter how much some people make communities to stop it, it never does. I am a muslim. My name is Shams, it means The Sun in Arabic. I was born in the capital of Iraq, which is Baghdad. It was the safest part of Iraq at that time (to say the least) but my family and I basically fled the country when I was only four, maybe less, years old because of the atmosphere of terrorism. I barely saw my home- I don’t even remember any of it because that was the last time I was there. I never saw it again. So, we fled and moved to Syria, which became our safe home only for about three more years before we also had to move again. Except, this time, we weren’t fleeing it. We had some family issues, my parents got divorced, so my mother and I moved with my mother’s sister, my aunt, my uncle and their three children; my cousins. We moved to Amman, Jordan. Jordan, even though I don’t actually come from it/originate from it, that’s the country I called home. I lived there for about 6-7 years of my life. I grew up there, I became someone there. A part of me still lives there. In my first year of living in Jordan, there was this day where my family and I joined this community/program for Iraqi/Syrians called the I.O.M that in a mere of five years of of being apart of it, meant that my whole life was going change and flip upside down.
Because that program gave us the opportunity to ‘immigrate’ to either the United States of America, or Canada. But, my family chose the option of going to America instead because we had family and friends here too, It’d be nice to know someone there who can give us these tips for our upcoming journey there, life has a completely different definition there. And I was right; because five years later, we made it. We successfully immigrated to the USA. And god, am I so thankful and blessed till this day to be here. And… here I am today. So, basically I just gave you the story, well apart of it, of my life leading up to this moment. But… how would you have known all of it without asking? How would you have known that I was a muslim? How would you have known if I told you I was an immigrant, did not a small part of you thought of the bad side of it? I just bundled up so many of the words you hear on the news and showed you that I wasn’t involved in any radical activity just because I am a muslim. The biggest majority of terrorists around the world, that westen parts of the world fear/absolutely loathe, would consider themselves an ‘Islamic’ group. And that all the war and the violence, the murder of thousands and thousands of innocent human beings was all for the good of Islam, and for Allah’s sake (the god of Islam). A well-known terrorist group with by far the biggest exterminations in history of the lives of the innocent would be ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria). They claim to be Islamic… but in truth, they are not. Not even close. At all. Absolutely preposterous! Islam is the religion of the Muslims, a monotheistic faith regarded as revealed through Muhammad as the Prophet of Allah. At least, that’s what a webster dictionary says anyway.
But Islam’s correct definition, the one us true muslims define it as peace, love, all for one and one for all, family, forgiveness, hope. Islam is purity, dignity, power, strength. Islam is commitment to Allah and Allah is the one who provides it for us Muslims. And The Quran? That is a book detailing the glory of Allah; the God and the wonders of His creation; it is also a testament to His Mercy and Justice. That is the definition of Islam, nothing less and nothing more. All of that absolutely horrendous talks and articles you see on the news, your TV? That is not Islam! Islam’s number one priority and its purpose since Allah introduced it to the Prophet Muhammad was to stop violence, stop war, stop the killing of the innocent, stop the merciless deaths and sins Muhammad’s tribe did. What those terrorists, probably the most childish term to be used, claim to be, Islamic? That is nothing but a hoax, a most definite lie. And what they claim to be is nowhere to what Islam about. Not in a million years from now, will I ever cease to believe that those radicals are Muslim. So why do you say that you are Islamophobic? Why not say that you have a phobia of terrorism instead?
The idea is not Islam itself, it’s the war, it;s the violence – when did it ever have to be about religion? When? George W. Bush made a speech after the 9/11 attacks; addressing the word Islamophobia and what he knows for sure about it and I’m paraphrasing it slightly. He said “Islam is peace, the perpetrators of these attacks, they do not represent Islam. They represent war and violence. Our enemies are not our Muslim brothers and sisters, our enemies are a network of radical terrorists”. The former president of the United States of America addressed it when the world thought it was going to fall apart because of these attacks. So why does not anyone? In the past few years, so much violence has just spread across our country, but when you watch the news, there’s always this specification as to whether or not terrorism was involved in the first place! Correct me if I’m wrong, news coverage does in fact tend to be a little different. It ultimately has us forgetting that terrorism, by the definition of terrorism, has always come in all shapes and colors. And what happens when we imprison certain assumptions with certain pictures, we wrongfully excluding some and including others, we end up caging masses of people under a name that says “dangerous” even if they’re nowhere near it.
Like when we say “thug” instead of 17-year-old black child. When we say “alien” instead of “immigrant”. When we say “lazy poor people” instead of “unequal wealth distribution”. When we say “bomb” instead of “clock”. The greatest distance you can travel in the shortest amount of time, is by asking someone their name. The way we name ourselves is a reflection of who we are, our declarations, family histories, the things we believe in, our homes, cultures, transformations. The adapting of a person’s story must be self-determined, coming from the lips of the storyteller themselves. Not on the news, not on your phones, not by some people who claim to know things when they haven’t even experience them. And when we don’t ask someone their name, we’re not asking for their story. Thank You.
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