You know, it’s very difficult, VERY, difficult when sharing an online space like Tumblr or Twitter and people hold you to stringent expectations regarding the LGBTQ community. Let me explain.
I’m doing my best to overcome whatever resistance or indifference I have towards the causes and injustices suffered by marginalized groups, specifically in this context the LGBTQ community. I know that the onus is on me but it comes with a lot of growing pains that aren’t afforded space.
I feel that I have to espouse the values of the LGBTQ community and not doing so entirely or readily makes me less worthy of respect. All the while I’m expected to clear up ‘controversial’ facts about Islaam that may clash with those values or make non-Muslims uncomfortable.
The reason why it’s such a taxing task is that I am already buried in layers of trauma and oppression that is invisible to most. I’m a black Muslim woman and as such I’m affected by the pushback and marginalization of the majority on several levels, often simultaneously.
A good day for me is when Muslims aren’t mentioned at all because that means I’m not reminded how hated I am. No other group has hatred against them so normalized as Muslims. I pick and choose what media to consume based on how invisible I can be. I don’t even want to be represented because that only brings trolls out. When I’m on YouTube, I quickly scroll past aggressive mainstream islamophobes and their peers like Bill Maher and Sam Harris because it’s honestly triggering to be reminded that when bashing any other group would bring the wrath of most, bashing Muslims and Islaam is deemed an intellectual sport.
I’ve had to unsubscribe from publications I really liked like Brain Pickings because Maria Popova would feature Sam Harris on the regular. And the worst thing is, I don’t hold anything against them because I’ve had my self worth so battered that I’m walking on eggshells and am satisfied with the absence of hatred.
That’s how low the bar is. I was 11 when 9/11 happened, enrolled in a private Muslim school ( that I insisted I go to when I was just 8 because of how much I was bullied by teachers and students alike for being black and Muslim). Although I, like the rest of the elementary school, were kids oblivious to foreign affairs, the first thing the school did the very next day was to call for assembly. They proceeded to tell us what had happened in that country called America and that it was wrong. They essentially braced us for the backlash that was expected, burdening our innocent psyches with the guilt of criminals and the defense of billions.
That set the pace for what life became: a constant reminder that I have to apologize for my existence and shoulder the blame of others. I was so aware of what the world thought of me that my self awareness was erased. Instead I was held together with what others said, how they treated me, how I was an inconvenience to them, how I must redeem myself. I remember I’d be embarrassed when walking with my dad, as 12-13 year old because I was afraid that white people would think I’m a child bride and married to this older man who they obviously couldn’t know was my dad. I made sure to not walk behind him because I was afraid that would affirm the submissive Muslim woman stereotype. It sounds ridiculous, but I became a ghost, the figment of people’s projections.
Add to that the racism levelled at me for being black. I remember wishing things were different, that my light skinned mum hadn’t married my dark skinned father because then I could turn out much lighter than I was. I’d think about making sure my kids could have straighter hair than me. Other times I’d daydream about how life would be if Angelina Jolie had adopted me. I was incredibly fortunate to have been shielded from most mental and emotional violence by going to a small Muslim school. It was a normal school, except that we had halal food and prayers in the prayer hall. And an inclusive space where we didn’t have to feel like misfits. It was one of the best experiences in my life so much so that when I had moved abroad for 7+ years I had recurring happy dreams of that school. I’m talking about consistently. It was my safe go-to place. That and the library.
And even as a grown woman, I’m struggling to settle in my roots for fear of disturbing others. Imagine the microaggressions suffered by glares at the bus stop, shouting of racist and islamophobic slurs, entire movies and books selling like hotcakes because of their portrayal of the savage Muslims. Presidential candidates proving their worth by how tough on Muzlamics they would be.Imaginewo, but FOURTEEN Muslim countries and counting since 1980:
Iran (1980, 1987-1988)
Libya (1981, 1986, 1989, 2011)
Iraq (1991-2011, 2014-)
Somalia (1992-1993, 2007-, 2016*)
Saudi Arabia (1991, 1996)
Afghanistan (1998, 2001-)
Yemen (2000, 2002-, *2016,*2017)
Pakistan (2004-) and now Syria.
(source: the intercept. *my edit)
Imagine that on top of the constant villification, the constant dehumanization, the blatant genocide, the robbing of property and resources, movies are made about these crimes, glorifying them, rubbing them in our faces:
Black Hawk Down
Zero Dark Thirty
Body of Lies
Eye in the sky
The Hurt Locker
Imagine if movies were made glorifying slave owners? Imagine movies dedicated to waxing poetically about the financial suffering that occurred after a slave escaped? Sounds bizarrely disgusting right?
What I am trying to communicate is a sort of trauma that even as I’m typing this, I can hear the imagined chants of protest and rebuttals in my mind of the reader. In the course of typing this, I’ve had the urge to scrap it altogether about 3-4 times. Being invisible and staying invisible is so ingrained in me and Muslim millennials like me that I panic just writing about it.
This is what I meant when I opened this by saying how very difficult it is to champion the causes of others as fully and wholeheartedly as would be ideal.
Because even though Trump has been incredibly islamophobic and actually MURDERED innocent Muslims and kids, I’ve noticed that when people recount his crimes, they conveniently bypass mentioning this.
//He’s racist, homophobic, misogynistic, transphobic//
Time and time again , the very systematic oppression that created a world where countries are invaded, where countries are plundered, where holocausts reignited, – the very monster that doctored Trump is glazed over.
I know this because I’ve waited with baited breath for people to finally speak of Muslims not as the aggressors but the victims. Nope. Month after month, I’ve noticed how even the occasional mention of islamophobia rolls of the mouths like Freudian slips or a dirty word never to be uttered again.
I’m not comparing traumas. Please don’t purposely project that on me. I know it’s tempting to overwrite what I’ve just shared maybe because emotionally manipulative and intellectually dishonest narratives are dime a dozen online. This is not me expecting anyone to acknowledge me. I’ve suffered but also triumphed on my own. And I believe any injustice to anyone is personal to me. Whether it’s homophobia or antisemitism, I don’t distinguish based on what the victim may believe about me.
But please understand that the reason why I’m not rushing to fight besides more visible victims is that I’m weighed down by struggles unacknowledged. Not only that, it’s very emotionally taxing to bring down walls to people and ideologies you’re not familiar with.
How do I fight antisemitism while I have zionism and Israel and Palestine gnawing at the back of my mind? How do I denounce transphobia when there are so many other causes more pressing? How do I worry about systematic racism and Flint when I haven’t even dared to broach racism in Sweden?These aren’t hypothetical questions; these are questions I battle with constantly. It’ll take me some time for me to grow into the person who is able to entertain all those varying causes without losing myself, without getting overwhelmed.
I just thought to share this vulnerable piece to show that there’s more nuance to raising awareness and change than simply dragging people or moral policing whoever doesn’t share your convictions. I’ve learnt to give people the benefit of the doubt and to take responsibility for my own healing, knowing that I can’t wasted my life waiting for society to change. And I think that’s a good policy, if practiced, would make mutual understanding and reconciliation possible.