Above Photo: ‘All people of faith, Muslims included, should be able to practice their religion freely.’ Photograph: Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Now Just Going Out Requires Courage
We are facing the most hostile environment since the immediate aftermath of 9/11. All Americans must speak out otherwise there will be worse to come
Each year, I look so forward to Eid Al Adha – the holiest holiday for Muslims worldwide – but not this year. As I watched my daughters prepare for the celebrations with joy, I learned of a horrific crime. A 36-year-old woman dressed in traditional garb was set on fire on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. She was the same age as me, walking in the city where I was born and raised. This comes at the heels of two Muslim women in Brooklyn who were physically assaulted by a woman as they pushed their babies in strollers.
As if this news wasn’t enough, we also learned that a mosque in Fort Pierce, Florida, which Omar Mateen reportedly used to visit, had been set on fire. They had to cancel their planned holiday celebrations as a result. How could I enjoy the day without thinking of them? Instead of celebrating as planned, the community in Florida has to explain to their children why someone would intentionally set their place of worship, their sanctuary, on fire the night before the highest holy holiday.
These horrific acts follow the execution style murders of an imam and his assistant in Ozone Park, and the stabbing of a 60-year old Muslim woman in Queens. These are only the stories that make the headlines. I don’t think we know the extent of the impact, trauma and pain of Muslim communities nationwide.
Muslim Americans found themselves caught in a conversation about how close Eid Al Adha was to the 15th anniversary of 9/11. Pundits wondered whether Muslims would alter their annual Eid celebrations for sensitivity purposes. This insinuation both disappointed and outraged me. Muslims, like any other faith community, deserve to be Muslim, and celebrate their high holy holidays. We would never ask that of any other faith community and it should never be asked or implied to Muslim Americans.
Muslim American communities are facing the most hostile civic and political environment since days, weeks and months after 9/11. Hate crimes against Muslims or those perceived to be Muslim has risen exponentially in the last year. All people of faith, Muslims included, should be able to practice their religion freely without fear and intimidation. Bigotry against Muslims has become the norm and often has no consequences. The irresponsible and rhetorical vilification of Muslims in this current election cycle is leading to violent acts against members of a faith community and it must stop.
It is time for all Americans to speak out. When we allow one faith community to be targets then we open the doors for others to be targeted. I believe the worst is yet to come unless more people actively intervene with their voices, their votes and in public acts of solidarity with their Muslim neighbors. In a time of growing tensions we must uphold our fundamental freedom to worship in the land of religious freedom and its why I choose to be unapologetically Muslim every day. As a Muslim woman, not only is wearing my religious headscarf in public an act of faith, but it has become an act of courage.