Here goes nothing. Here goes everything.
I am a woman of the 21st Century. I am a Muslim of a 14 centuries-old religion. I said Muslim, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you thought terrorist.
I come from a land that people speak of often, but not always with love. I come from Pakistan—otherwise known as Terroristan, Porkistan, or other profanities that are almost too obscene to be mentioned or even spelled out with the purity of an alphabet.
One may argue that we live in a free world in which language—whether spoken or written—can be used to express the negativity we hold toward circumstances, places, or people. One may argue that it is the use of alphabets that liberates us from all manner of shackles—even if we use it to form hate speech. I agree, but only to a certain extent.
Where some may be breaking out of their shackles, out of their cages of civility, screaming foul words because they have seen injustice, they are simply imposing those shackles upon others.
Isn’t that doing exactly what terrorists do? Isn’t that terrorizing one another?
Suppose a terrorist forced a woman into a headscarf and, similarly, someone who considers themselves to be an educated person of this century forces her into taking it off. Doesn’t that count as terrorism, too? Isn’t this precisely what fuels these terrorist organizations? Witnessing reactions like this gives them a motive to spread their radical views. Spreading hate, fear, and violence encourages them. If you stand against them, why play by their rules?
And so, to the those who feel the need to stand up for themselves by standing against Muslims, like me, I say:
I hear you mock my hijab, telling me I look like a slave. But I chose to wear it. I am a Muslim.
I hear you abuse my very existence, physically and emotionally. But I still stick to my beliefs. I am a Muslim.
I hear you blame 1.6 billion Muslims for the actions of an extremist group that violates the most basic principles of my religion, of my Islam, of my God. But I don’t dare disrespect your faith, simply because it is yours. I am a Muslim.
I hear the words you speak against me to your friends, your families, to your world. I hear all of them laughing with you, and jeering at me. Yet I remain silent. I am a Muslim.
I understand. I understand why you detest me and the 1.6 billion of us out there. I am a Muslim.
You have been hurt and scarred. You have felt and seen fear. You have been violated when all you ever wanted was to feel safe. But I want you to know that I, too, feel the same. I, too, am a victim of the same fears. I, too, feel suffocated when I step out of my home. I, too, have heard the sound of a bomb blowing up. I, too, have seen the shattered windows of my home and the broken state of the people of my country.
I, too, hate the enemy. Yes, we share the same enemy. I am a Muslim.
And it is for this reason that I swear to you that, whether you love or hate Muslims, I will protect you. I will be on your side, I will fight against our common enemy. I will do my best to ensure that you don’t fear me when you see my hijab. I will fight for your right to feel safe. I will stand by your side till my very last breath because I hate that you feel the need to hate.
I am so deeply sorry that you have faced fear in the name of an extremist view on religion.
But, I am a Muslim, and I do not apologize for that.
Author: Maleeha Shaikh
Image: Fahrurrazy Halil/ Flickr
Editor: Khara-Jade Warren