Chameleon

This is a topic that I’ve been trying to write about for a while now, but I haven’t quite been able to phrase my thoughts into coherent sentences. Here goes nothing:

I’m a Muslim. My parents are Muslims. My siblings are Muslim. My family is Muslim. I grew up in a predominantly white neighbourhood for almost all my life. I’ve never personally encountered any racism/Islamophobia towards me in all my 21 years. A lot of it also has to do with the fact that I apparently don’t look “traditionally” Muslim, as I’ve been told – whatever that means. My family speaks English at home with each other, but I also speak two other languages. My parents are doctors, I’m a third year med student and my brothers are still in school. My point is, we’re a normal family.

Over the past decade and more, the rise of terrorism has become a topic of discussion on the news and social media. After 9/11 in NYC, 7/11 in London, the Boston marathon bombings and most recently, the Ottawa shootings, Muslims worldwide were targeted because of the extremism of a small minority of so-called followers of Islam.

I’m not here to preach to you about Islam. Because frankly, I don’t even know enough about it.

One thing I do know, however, is that I’m scared. Even though I’ve never faced any prejudice, racism or Islamophobia, I’m scared to tell people about my faith and culture.

I’m scared they’ll assume the worst. I’m scared they’ll think I’m like the other minorities in Islam. That I’m an extremist. I’m not. I don’t want to hurt anyone of any race, gender, faith or sexuality. When the KKK doesn’t represent all Christians, when the Nazis don’t represent all Germans, why do these terrorists all represent all Muslims in people’s eyes?

I’m not trying to belittle what tragedies occurred. 9/11 was one of the scariest things I’ve witnessed as a kid. My own mother had just missed the train the morning of the 7/11 bombings in London – the train which blew up. I don’t mean to take importance away from what happened and who was killed and whose fault it was. That’s not what this is about.

I’m scared to walk out on the street and make it obvious in any way that I’m Muslim. I grew up in Dublin/London, which are now more culturally diverse, but I still see racism happening to people of colour and other faiths. Why is it that in 2014, we still have the same problems we did 100 years ago? Debt, racism, poverty, wars? We may have advanced in technology and science but the human psyche is still the same.

I should be able to walk down a street and not care that I’m a different colour to you. Or that I don’t have the same faith as you. Or that perhaps we’re not the same sexuality. Or of the same social class. Why then, in this day and age, do we still kill human beings over such matters? This goes for both the “Islamic” extremists and Islamophobes.

MLK Jr’s speech was revolutionary. But we haven’t learned a thing. His dream was never fulfilled. Because we’re living in what is probably his and people of colour everywhere’s nightmare.

I, too, have a dream. That one day, if an incident occurs, while I’m praying for the victims and their families, I don’t wanna have to be praying that it’s not a Muslim who did it. That’s the world I’m living in now but I hope the future generations never have to see it.

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