My dearest Muslim fam,
As we sit to mourn Baghdad, Dhaka, Istanbul, Muslim men shot in Minneapolis and Houston, a Muslim woman assaulted and stripped by police officers in Chicago, the ongoing militarism against our people in places like Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, I want to take a moment to say I love you. I love us. All of us.
The violence and oppression perpetrated against us and our people goes beyond the immediate perpetrator of that violence, regardless of whether that perpetrator is Muslim or a white man with a gun. The underlying roots of White supremacy and Western imperialism can’t just be erased to focus on individual perpetrators.
The reality is that Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hate didn’t suddenly start 14 years ago. The Bosnian genocide that targeted and killed thousands of Muslims is a testimony to that. The ongoing genocide against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar and US foreign policy that has targeted at least seven Muslim-majority countries is a testimony that this is a world-wide phenomenon.
The violence, the dehumanization, and the caricatures within our media of Muslims are not new. It was there in Dante’s Inferno, in the Crusades, in the intentional erasing of Muslim-ness of enslaved Black Muslims on plantations.
But we know this already. We discuss this day in and day out.
What we get stuck on is proving that we are worthy of being mourned, and failing to move beyond that. There’s enough of us that we don’t need to beg others to mourn with us. We can mourn and love each other, and that will be enough.
It’s not our job to humanize ourselves to others. That’s a distraction.
There will always be something to explain, something to drudge up, something to show and tell about how great we are in order to prove something minuscule. And all that will do is prevent us from spending time in building our own infrastructure.
They say we’re not American, so we spend so much time reveling in basic nationalisms. (We’re “Muslim-American” we say, over and over and over again––essentially distancing ourselves from the power that lies in being a community that is over one billion strong.) We go to government-sponsored lifters, and dine with the same people surveilling or killing or incarcerating us. All because we feel like we need to prove something.
They say we don’t offer anything, so we point out how we’re lawyers, doctors, and engineers, failing to acknowledge that our careers don’t make us more human. We’re also cabbies and bus drivers, sanitation workers, incarcerated without due process, unemployed, and working in sweatshops for pennies. That’s us, too.
They say we’re terrorists so we go off on relics about how we follow a religion of “peace.”
No, ours is a community that is tasked with guiding others to truth, and establishing justice, a community of just anger, and of ensuring no one’s rights are infringed because caring for the creation is a part of worshipping the Creator. We’re not a pacifist people, we’re a dignified and honorable people––regardless of whether we’re in Nigeria or Iran or Palestine or China or the U.S. That is who we are.
It’s time to stop watering down our strength and rightful anger, our traditions and our varying cultural roots, and our understandable messiness as one of the most diverse religious communities in the world.
Because no respectability politics or siloing of ourselves will stop us from being under attack, whether that’s in Japan or Palestine or the Central African Republic or the U.S.
We’re taught that we are as one body and if any one part of us hurts, we all hurt.
We need to internalize and understand that. Now more than ever. We can only build on that pain and frustration to create societies built on justice if we actually recognize and acknowledge our own pain as being real.
We need to learn how to love every part of us, learn that the roots of our oppression go beyond who may be the immediate perpetrator of violence, and beyond just these past 14 years, and learn that we have the power to build something better. We are not a community that despairs. We are a community that faces oppression and then builds societies like the world has never seen.
Let’s mourn, let’s love, let’s get to work building, bi’idhnillah.
Your sister in faith and in humanity
Submitted by Iram F. Ali