A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece about celebrating Ramadan and Eid in Trump’s America. It was a pretty simple piece – just me discussing the emotions I feel being a Muslim, knowing that so many people around me voted for someone who believes that Muslims should be deported out of the country, and how these emotions make it pretty difficult to be proud of my religion, traditions, and holidays sometimes. However, as I always attempt to do, I ended the piece on a positive note. I promised myself I would try my best to post as many pictures of my day on Eid as possible, and would try to spread as much information about the holiday online to my followers, because even small things like that can end up educating someone. I followed through with my promise, but I never thought that my faith would actually be tested that day.
I’ll try to keep this as short as possible, because there is a lot I could say about what happened to my family and I that day, but I don’t know if any of it would really do our experience justice; it was that horrific that it’s difficult for me to describe.
My entire family woke up early Eid morning as we always do, a sense of excitement in the air. We got ready, drove to the mosque for morning prayer, and when it was over, we started driving to the city to eat some brunch, walk around, and attend some museums. We weren’t but halfway there when we heard someone yelling at us through their car window, and beeping at us from behind.
Having just stopped at a stoplight, we were confused as to where they expected us to go. After a couple of seconds, the driver got agitated and pulled up beside our car even though there wasn’t a lane there – whatever he wanted seemed pretty urgent. My sisters and I decided to wear hijab all day that day instead of just at the mosque like we usually do — another promise I’d made myself –so I guess he saw we were all wearing scarves, and rhetorically questioned us.
“Are you Muslims? Are you Muslims?!” he would shout, only to answer his own question two seconds later. “Ohh you are! I’ve killed so many of you Muslim f***s!!”
I could not believe the words coming out of his mouth. He then proceeded to flip up off with his middle finger, pretend to shoot us with his hands, and then tried to cut us off as the light turned green, while manically laughing and grimacing menacingly at the same time.
Thankfully we drove away as soon as we were able to, and the worst thing that resulted from the entire situation was that we were shaken up. As bad as it was, it could’ve been a lot worse. He could’ve actually shot us, because I don’t doubt that he had a gun in his car. He could’ve rammed his gigantic truck into our much smaller car. He could’ve done so many things with that much rage in his eyes.
At the end of the day I’m thankful that we all left the encounter unharmed, and I only hope that he didn’t go on to terrorize any other people later on.
I knew people were crude, but for some reason I was still slightly naive and never thought I’d experience such aggressive and blatant Islamophobia firsthand. He had no shame whatsoever. In fact, he seemed proud – proud that he’d gotten to say what he wanted to before the light turned green, and we were safely able to drive away; proud that he’d supposedly killed so many of us (I’m guessing he was hinting at being in the military); and proud that he’d instilled fear into us in that moment by making us think that we could potentially lose our lives.
And like I said, I could go on about it forever. There are so many angles I could take to discuss this, but truthfully I don’t even know where to start. I’m sad. Sad that it happened, sad that I’m supposed to be happy that nothing more traumatizing or dangerous happened, sad that this kind of thing happens on the daily to other Muslims.
Sisters who observe the hijab on a daily basis – bless your hearts. It’s crazy that I can slip under the radar every day, passing as non-Muslim, but as soon as I put a piece of cloth (which is so much more than and simultaneously nothing more than a piece of cloth), on my head I’m automatically seen as a threat. It’s sickening that the Islamophobia in this country and world has gotten so bad that Muslims in general, but especially Muslimahs, have to fear for their lives when they step out of their front door.
As bad as it was, it could’ve been a lot worse. He could’ve actually shot us, because I don’t doubt that he had a gun in his car. He could’ve rammed his gigantic truck into our much smaller car. He could’ve done so many things with that much rage in his eyes.
My heart hurts just thinking about how much of a mess everything is when it comes to issues like this, but my heart hurts especially for the man and people like him, who have been so misguided and have to carry such hate in their own hearts every single day.
I wish more people wanted to learn about Islam, but half the time I almost don’t even blame them for not having the desire to, and that’s an utter shame.
I wish there was a simple way I could help others see the beauty of the religion. I wish more people would understand the concept of the hijab, whether they think it’s something necessary to observe or not. And more than anything, I wish these instances didn’t make me want to turn away from Islam every once in a while purely out of sheer fear. I wish it was easier for me to stay strong and stand up for myself and my people, but in this day and age everything is easier said than done, and you have to choose safety over advocacy sometimes.
Without being disrespectful, let’s think back to the tragic murder of 17-year-old Nabra Hassanen in Virginia last year. She was murdered during Ramadan after leaving her local mosque, and she wore hijab. She was with her group of friends, and even though it was late, that should’ve been enough to keep her safe. She shouldn’t ever have had to worry about anything in the first place, because no one should be targeted for what they choose to wear or not wear. These are the types of tragedies we need to stop from happening, and I’m always worried about these kinds of acts of horror happening to my Muslim brothers and sisters, to be perfectly honest.
Wearing hijab is a public declaration of faith. I’ve stated it already, but bless all of you hijabis who observe it day after day without hesitation. Bless the non-hijabis as well. Bless the women who want to start observing but are still too scared, like I am.
Insha’Allah one day you will get there and meet your own goals, and when that happens, I hope men like this one don’t try to get in your way. Everyone should be able to live their own lives without judgement, as long as they’re not hurting anyone, and they’re making themselves happy, and that applies to everything in life, not just Islam and wearing hijab. We as humans do not control others. We only control ourselves. And sometimes, knowing there are people out there like this man, that’s a terrifying thought.