WE NEED TO TALK
I remember watching the news from my television in France and seeing yet another shooting happening in the United States. I am afraid, uncomfortable and unfamiliar. I feel fear because I am now living in the United States and need to have my voice heard concerning gun violence. I am uncomfortable because I have not spoken up enough about it. I am unfamiliar because in Europe, policies are different concerning gun detention.
I keep my head down but I know I wish to speak up.
The thing is that the media do no treat every act of violence the same way. It becomes a whole semantic battle.
When violence, hate crimes and shootings happen in the United States or in Europe, the ethnic background and religion are usually more visible when the shooter is Muslim or is from a Muslim country. In Europe, when terrorists attacks happen, the Muslim community tends to lower their heads and not speak up. We feel shame, we are uncomfortable. We know there are issues within the community but sometimes the words and actions do not happen.
American Muslims have a complete different approach. Misconceptions and misunderstandings grew after 9/11 and Islam became a public matter. Muslim organizations flourished to “educate” and inform non- American Muslims on their perception of Islam. More specifically regarding women, it is evident that the discourse has changed. Many Muslim organizations are opening up about domestic violence, sexuality, and cultural impediments that deter women from speaking freely. Some much has been achieved towards cultural change and female empowerment. But we need to do better regarding mental health.
We need to have to talk, provide resources and free each other to heal. Unfortunately, the horrifying shooting that took place in Colorado this week is one example of why, as a community, we need to speak up and open the dialogue on mental health. This is devastating. I know so many individuals within the Muslim community that have suffered from trauma. So many individuals that I know were victims of domestic violence, sexual abuse and emotional trauma. I was directly impacted by the consequences of these unhealed traumas.
We are told to be ‘strong’ and take it. Could you imagine my grandmother speaking up about the racism or violence she suffered coming to France from Morocco. No. She just internalized it, because that’s what we do. Once again, the ‘us’ and ‘them’ narrative comes into play. You are told ‘that’s not what WE do’ as if seeking help was a ‘western’ invention. You are told to turn yourself to prayers or God, which is true but we also need to go to therapy … Transgenerational trauma, also called the legacy of trauma is a really thing. We need to have an inter-generational talk.Trauma does not dissipate or disappears.
As a Muslim woman and person of color, I never knew who I could turn myself to if I ever needed support and guidance. This is taboo. It is shameful. We do not speak about emotions. We have repressed it collectively.
Mental health is a complex subject. It is multidimensional. Most recently, I have found relief. More and more, online, I have seen growing this new wave of Muslim American/women therapists that provide intersectional services. I could not believe eyes. A therapy that encompasses all aspects of my identity. A holistic perspective. I know change is happening. I have hope that we will achieve and create a holistic perspective in mental health that provides spiritual, emotional, social and mental health support, services and guidance.
I hope and wish that, in the future, we can talk more about mental health within the Muslim community. I know so many social change-makers are already starting the work. We need to create space for knowledge sharing, healing and provide resources. American muslims women are leading the way and have also set milestones for the future of other generations, gave positive visibility in the United States, and demonstrated progress. This is the start of a quest for social change and taboo reform within the community. We can do it. Let’s talk.
Muslim Mental Health,website. https://muslimmentalhealth.com/
Mental Health 101: An Islamically Integrated Perspective ,Khalil Center.https://khalilcenter.com/mental-health-101-an-islamically-integrated-perspective/
‘Arab, Muslim community expresses sympathy with Colorado shooting victims’, Arab News, https://www.arabnews.com/node/1831076/world