Friday, December 11, 2015

Thoughts from an American Muslim Mother

Given the hateful, anti-Islamic rhetoric that is being spewed right now, I followed the lead of my friends Jeanne Marie and Kelly, who posted messages on their Facebook walls offering support to their Muslim friends. I decided to reach out to a Muslim woman I know. We've never shared a meal or gone for coffee or out for a meal, but every Jewish holiday, she sends me an email with good wishes. I am embarrassingly bad about reciprocating. And yet, without fail, there's a Happy Chanuka! or Happy New Year! from her in my inbox.

So I sent her a note expressing my concerns about the current wave of religious intolerance and offering to support her and her friends where I could.

A simple act of kindness can bring unexpected results. Whereas I thought this was a rather small gesture, it apparently meant a lot to her. More than I could have known. (That's a good Life Lesson right there.)

Our email exchange will become a real-life dialogue with a group of local Muslim and Jewish women later this month. I urge you to reach out within your community as well. NPR aired a story the other day about what happens in the Muslim community when we let the media in its Trumpified glory do the talking for us.

This here below is also what happens. Please read my friend's reflections on her community. I am sharing this with permission.

The overall feeling many of us are going through is fear, dejection, depression, and helplessness. I hate turning on the TV with my kids around because bigoted remarks are being made openly and unflinchingly over and over against us--we are being bullied, so to speak, through news and media/social media and no one seems to understand the impact this is having upon the psyche of the Muslim community and its youth. I just can't believe what I've been hearing ever since 9/11 and it has gotten much worse!

And even worse than that, we hear the bigotry spewing from mouths of people in leadership positions! The world has become brainwashed into thinking Islam/Muslim is now synonymous with terrorism--no one even seems to think twice about it now (sadly, not even many Muslims, so you see the psychological damage that's already taking place) even though countless terrorist acts are being committed in our nation and worldwide by people who are not Muslims--recall Dylan Roof and the ideologies he prescribed to when he decided to kill African American church members, the massacre of over 70 people in Norway by Anders Breivik, or the genocide occurring in Burma.

Very few seem to believe (or if there are many, we don't hear them drowning the rhetoric that supports otherwise) that some of these perpetrators are violently reacting due to geo-politics, and a sense of helplessness and hopelessness. They live under oppressive regimes & inhumane conditions and they have nothing to lose.

Some have suffered severe trauma and have seen horrific things committed in unstable or war-torn environments; and now they've found a cause that gives their lives some meaning and a way to implement some sort of justice. Leaders of these organizations carry out their message in hopes to target these vulnerable people who will support their cause. And we know that when emotions become so raw, it may lead to horrible consequences--whether it's taking ones own life or the life of others.
And like any other community, mental health is an issue in the Muslim community as well, so those who are mentally ill are prime targets. However, somehow these factors are overlooked and an entire group of people are now being targeted, their faith and religious figures being attacked as the root cause of the crimes--because that seems like the most simple answer to something far more complicated which we are unwilling to confront.

Very few media outlets effectively publicize the many Muslim organizations and people who are condemning these acts or it falls on deaf ears. Hate crimes against Muslims seem to fall under stricter guidelines to even be labeled as hate crimes. Some Muslims here do think the terrible possibility of internment camps for Muslims is coming down the road.

When you look the history of the Jewish Holocaust and the internment of the Japanese here on US soil, the things we are seeing out there today are following the exact same pattern that lead up to these events. I attended Anne Shimojima's presentation of the Japanese internment camps at the library. When I mentioned this very real fear that American Muslims have, she said she is not aware of any laws that can prevent this from happening again; meaning, technically, the US government can take such action.

The question is, will America and the world be able to avert such a human disaster?

The Muslim community understands it has to confront these movements because these violent organizations prey upon OUR "own," our youth--we have countless seminars for people to educate them on what to look for in the community, how to help our youngsters cope with stress. Do people really think we want to lose our children to such movements? These groups may be angry about some legitimate issues, but do people really think the entire Muslim world feels this is the way to solve problems? The inciteful message being sent out in answer to these questions is "Yes--that the core value of Islam is to kill non-Muslims!"

I recall a Chicagoland Muslim mother crying and pleading with ISIS to leave our children alone after her son was convicted for planning to carry out an attack--but that is not something publicized and played over and over and over again to show America that Muslims are struggling on two fronts--protecting our own children and fellow Muslims from such organizations and protecting ourselves from racism and bigotry from the rest of the world.

If you look at my son, he will remind you of Ahmed Mohammed, the boy who was falsely arrested for a clock he made that an educator suspected was a bomb--and after the truth was discovered fairly quickly, no apologies were made by the police or the school, which never even followed protocol if a bomb was suspected to be on school grounds. What is going through this bright, young man's head?

Will I live a life worrying that my children will be targets? Will they be denied jobs, basic rights as they get older?

So that's what's going through some of our heads right now. We never thought we'd see such a day.