I. AM. MUSLIM.
That’s not a sentence I shout out in pride and triumph as I kick somebody down a well. The Spartans might be able to get away with it, the Muslims certainly can’t.
Instead, it’s whispered with nervousness and uncertainty as I wonder who’s going to be kicking me, probably out of an airport if experience is anything to go by.
That’s not to say I’m not proud of my religion, but I live in a world in which being Muslim isn’t really okay. Yeah we can sit here and pretend that secretly we’re all fine with it because we ‘understand’ that Islam and terrorism aren’t synonymous with one another, but we’re manipulated by our environment and a body of media that has made it blatantly obvious that the two are one and the same. So I tend to keep my mouth shut when it comes to my religion.
But just as most of my articles are born out of me being genuinely pissed off about one thing or another, this is no exception, and right now, I’m pissed. In a really big way.
I sat last night and watched as the news of the Paris shootings came rolling in and groaned into my hands, silently praying that it wasn’t ‘us’ this time.
Don’t let it be our fault again, please don’t let it be us.
I secretly hoped that the newsreader would start telling the story of a lonely white male with a history of mental illness who had decided to shoot up the place. Not because that makes the tragedy any better, it just selfishly makes my life easier.
Because every time something like this happens, I get hit with the questions. They ask, ‘so Salma, did you see the news, what do you think about all this?’
What do I think about all of this………?
I think you should never have asked me that question in the first place.
Essentially you’re asking me if I have an opinion about the death of over 100 people. I’m a human being packed full of emotion, just like you. I don’t think anything of it. I just know that it’s awful and terrible. I don’t have an opinion on it because as a human being, I automatically feel pain and anger at the senseless loss of fellow lives. There is no opinion to be had on the subject. But because I am a Muslim, and some crazy people on the other side of the world have decided to use Islam as a scapegoat for their terrible acts, my humanity gets questioned on a regular basis.
I’ve watched groups of white non-Muslims talk about the Paris shootings, as well as other terrorists acts, and the conversation invariably starts with a declarative. ‘How awful…’ or ‘it’s terrible…’ They say the words utterly safe in the knowledge that everyone around them will agree, because why wouldn’t they. You would be crazy not to. But my conversation is always opened with an interrogative, and I’m beyond weary of it. I’ve been asked to give my opinion and thoughts on the Paris shootings seven times today, and the night is still young.
It’s not just my opinion they want. They want reassurance. They want me to comfort them, safely soothing their fears as I explain that these killings are nothing to do with Islam and don’t worry, ‘we’re not like them, we’re the good kind of Muslim.’ But I refuse to hold your hand and walk you through your own ignorance. Go read a fucking book and understand the basic principles of Islam before you come gushing to me for comfort. I shouldn’t have to apologise or calm your fears because I believe in something.
My faith is deeply personal to me. It’s a relationship with God that I quietly have and that enriches my life and makes me happier as a person. That’s it. That’s all it is, and all it will ever be, but because of a widespread ignorance, I’m asked to validate and explain it constantly.
It’s that ignorance that makes me nervous when I mention my religious beliefs or Islam. It’s that ignorance that strips my spiritual connection of any pride and joy I might feel. I’m not the mouthpiece of every Muslim on this planet.
I am just a Muslim.
No explanation or apology should have to come after that.
Please stop forcing one out of me.