Every Jummah I wake up to the beautiful recitations of the Quran on the Echo Dot in my living room. The smell of kababs on the burning stove. The sound of laughter and teasing as my siblings argue about who will shower first. I wake up to bliss, to peace. Ready to release the week’s tension at Jummah prayer in the mosque. No matter how many prayers I have missed over the course of the week, my body cannot live without bowing my head on a jaanemaz on Friday afternoon. It’s a ritual. It’s a tradition. It is, in the midst of chaos, my sanity.
This past Friday, I woke up to silence. I woke up to messages from my family in Pakistan to be safe. My heart pounded against my chest as I opened up news outlets seeking answers. My initial thought – “God I hope there hasn’t been another terrorist attack orchestrated by a so called Muslim extremist.”
The Christchurch terror attack that took place in New Zealand is an example of Islamophobia.
A phobia, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is an exaggerated, usually inexplicable and illogical fear of a particular object, class of objects, or situation. Islamophobia, like all phobias, extends its vicious arms past “irrational fear.” It is a life threatening disease that’s surviving on the blood of my people. The war on terrorism which was meant to be an antidote to radicalism has exclusively targeted people of Islamic faith. The war in Afghanistan has lasted so long that people who were born after 9/11 can now enlist. The overemphasis on 9/11 in the United States is a form of strategic propaganda to pursue younger generations into toxic nationalism so that the unjustified wars in the Middle East could continue. The burden of 9/11 stigma is so significant that I feel a rush of guilt every time it’s mentioned in classrooms. Forty thousand people died in 2018 because of gun violence, but the US government refuses to take action. Instead we use our resources to inflict war on nations such as Afghanistan and Iraq as if that’s the biggest threat to American democracy.
What’s seems paradoxical is that as Muslims, my family, my community, and I are so consumed into being individual representatives of our faith that we forget that we are victims too. There is limited media attention when the victims are brown. Everyone around the world stood with solidarity when the office of Charlie Hebdo magazine was attacked in Jan 2015, It brought about international attention and rage. 1.5 million people joined world leaders in a “Unity Rally” to stand with Paris as they attempted to recover from the terror attack. The Eiffel tower turned its lights off in homage to Charlie Hebdo. And the Empire State Building blacked out to show their support. The Stockholm terror attack in 2017, which killed 6 in Sweden, also drew similar attention. My intention is not to compare different terror attacks because it is not a competition. What I intend to do is to highlight the difference that exists when the victims are white, and when the victims are Muslims.
Here’s a visual. This is the page result of a Google search for “Stockholm Attack.” Please, note the language on the right side, “an Islamist terrorist attack.”
And here is the result for a query on the Christchurch attack. There is no mention of Christian extremist white supremacist in the title. Because the media doesn’t link terror attacks carried out by Christians with Christianity as a whole.
Another example – there is a genocide taking place in China right now. 1 million Muslims detained in concentration camps in China, being culturally cleansed – forced to eat pork, drink alcohol, and marry outside of their religious beliefs. But no one changes their profile pictures to stand with Uyghar Muslims. My non-Muslim friends don’t repost or share the sense of loss when it affects my community. The war in Syria rages on, as the United States continues to support Israel with military weapons, as they wipe out an entire nation that just wants to be free.
I appreciate New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern powerful actions in response to Christchurch terrorist attack that killed 49 Muslim in a Mosque. She refused to say the terrorists name, clearly condemned violence, and vowed to bear funeral costs of the victims. And, from the bottom of my heart, I am grateful that New Zealand broadcasted the Adhaan nationally from Christchurch. But it’s not enough to change the international spiraling hatred towards Muslims. Because then there are people, like New Zealand Senator Fraser Anning, who feel comfortable to release hateful statements like this.
I don’t know how to gather the words to explain the immense fear that exists in my community right now. Provoked by people in power such as Senator Anning and Donald Trump – morally corrupt individuals who brew hatred towards people of color, and openly promote Muslim bans. Words of hatred have consequences. Hatred and racism have consequences. As hate crimes increase in America and a president who cannot condone white terrorists. The least I can ask is: don’t take away our right to mourn. Instead, mourn with us. We bleed too.