When You Get Tired of Defending Your Religion
After tragedies, generalizing makes complicated issues simple, and simple feels nice. But when those broad brushstrokes start breeding hate toward an entire religion, it might be time to turn off the Fox News.
By Alina Shaikh, University of Toronto
It’s hard being Muslim nowadays—ask anyone how they’re treated when they leave the house with hijab, or a taqiyah (kinda like a yarmulke. But bigger, and in cute colors and designs).
They’ll go into detail on the stares they get, the way people look them up and down and shake their head. They notice how parents move their kids behind them when they pass, and how catcalls turn into “killing every last one of you terrorists” real quick.
But hey! On the bright side, at least there’s been an outpouring of love and support from people who follow their own peaceful little religions, a solidarity that has been remarkably hindrance-free despite the temptation to cozy into nice, sweeping generalizations.
The fact that Trump wants us tagged and accounted for even took some Jewish crowds to the streets, demanding that they won’t support any notion of a second Holocaust, not of any religion.
I for one was thinking about printing out all these buttons and pins, with cute little sayings like “xtra halal” and “can’t find this religious freedom you speak of,” and, of course, the “oop i am not isis i am a college kid not responsible for these terrorist organizations what’s wrong with you.” Y’know. Because Trump wants us to.
Trust me, I understand: When you’re wearing religious things, like a cross necklace, a headscarf or (if you’re me) an oversized sweater telling Islamophobes to grow up and read a book (notably, the book, to get all misconceptions handled), you’re bound to face some questions.
And questions are always welcomed, sure! But when you’re running home at four in the morning with no mobile data, badgering us across the street isn’t the best way to get out attention.
As much as I’d love to sit and chat on the abandoned park bench, you yelling “Who the fuck prays five times a day” isn’t helping your case much. But thanks for your belief in my time-management skills.
At interfaith events, our questions for Christians are usually, “Wait, so is Jesus the son of God or God?” “How are the holy angel, God and his son all equal?” and “Which one’s your fav?” But for the Muslims, regular interfaith-goers tell me the questions they come across always exhibit a total lack of understanding and miscommunication within the religion.
The “Why does your mom force you to cover your head” classic is always one of the first to come up. And it gets awkward real quick when the mom is the one asking her daughter not to wear it, for fear of discrimination and prejudice. Or when guys start saying that they’ve seen Hijabis showing the top of their hair, and if that’s okay, only to be met with stares from the Muslim group, like. ‘Yeah, man. What do you think this is?’
My adored halal food-vendor was pretty shocked to hear about the kind of discrimination that university students have to put up with, but he said it makes sense because the areas near universities are usually the toughest for minorities and Muslims.
For whatever reason, people like to take their anger out on millennials in particular, especially after they watch whatever it is on the news they watch that makes them into “complete and utter assholes.”
He thinks Muslims shouldn’t go around condemning the attacks or apologizing for them, because even if it feels palliative to say sorry, it just reinforces the false assumption that you’re somehow associated with the terrorists. No completely unrelated Christian guy stands up and apologizes for the acts of the KKK, so why should Muslims apologize for ISIS? I nod vehemently and buy a hot dog.
Whatever kind of Muslim you come across—the proud liberals, the meek apologists, the indifferent shruggers—you’ll see a kind of mutual understanding in the way that they carry themselves around different types of people.
We tend to stick with the LGBTQ kids, the feminists, the Black student unions, the Jewish clubs, as we’ve all been discriminated against at some point. We’re still working through it all, even in the 21st century.
And sometimes, working with groups of people from different backgrounds, races, classes, genders and sexualities is just the kind of environment we need in order to stand up for ourselves and let history stay history. Be safe, guys.