I’m 45 years old and was born and raised in southern California. I haven’t lived in the U.S. in 13 years and as we can sadly see … things have certainly changed for the worse in America. When I lived there, generally speaking anyway, the worst thing I remember ‘learning’ about Muslims was that Muslim women were brainwashed into wearing the hijab and/or burka. Back then I didn’t know any Muslims so I blindly believed what I had been told without educating myself or thinking twice.
Well, thankfully I’m not the same blindly-believing-anything-I-hear American girl I once was…
My daughter and I lived in India from 2011 – 2013 and our first flat overlooked a lovely park and was less than two blocks away from Bangalore’s most famous mosque on the aptly named Mosque Road in Frazer Town. Each morning we’d see groups of chatting Muslim women in burkas power walking around the park. We had lots of wonderful Muslim neighbours who helped us to acclimate to our new city and I had a ton of Muslim work mates for the first time in my life. Ohhhhhhh and we were able to experience – to a certain degree – Muslim festivals like locals, which are full of wonderful food and street parties.
Every single Muslim who I personally encountered was kind and helpful and gracious. I was even saved from a non-Muslim Indian trying to sexually assault me on a side street by two Muslim men who saw what was happening from a distance and came running to help me
After a short time I decided to interview Muslim women in Bangalore about the headdress to uncover if, in fact, they had been brainwashed the way some of us Americans had thought. I talked to several girls and women about what being Muslim was like for them. They answered all my questions, shared sweet and funny stories, and helped me to see that I was wrong to blindly believe hearsay about their religion.
One of my work mates even took me to a local boutique to try on burkas and to teach me how to pin a hijab, which was an experience I cherish (these pics were taken of me that day). It was a small store and there were several girls there shopping when I entered. They were as curious about me as I was about them and their clothing. The girls really appreciated the effort I was making to understand their culture and talked to me the whole time, even sharing some funny tales from their university life that I incorporated into an article I wrote about Understanding Muslim Women.
In short, I educated myself about their religion and stopped being a sheep and believing something without proof, for which I’m very grateful…especially today. And in the process I met more wonderful Muslims than I would have done by just living my day-to-day life.
So What Inspired This Post Today?
I’ve been travelling solo in Bali for the past two months and have just hit my ‘lonely’ breaking point so I’m headed home to California for the holidays. As I type, I’m sat on an Emirates flight for the 19-hour Dubai to Los Angeles leg of my journey and surrounded by mostly Muslims. I can’t help but wonder how it must feel for them to be arriving to a country that has some Republican presidential candidates and their followers horrifically calling for Nazi/WWII-style tactics like creating a database of all Muslims, banning Muslims from the country, and other very un-American acts.
There is so much fear-induced racial profiling going on in the USA at the moment that a bright young boy was recently handcuffed by police and removed from school because his homemade clock science project was misjudged as a bomb simply because he’s Muslim. Add onto that an increase in Muslims being discriminated against just in general. Then even more upsetting is the fact that in these recent weeks following the Paris terrorist attacks that hate crimes towards Muslims in the UK and USA have skyrocketed 300%. Honestly, I’m embarrassed by the ungracious – and potentially uncomfortable or even violent – welcome my fellow passengers may be about to receive by some Americans.
Terrorists Are Terrorists. Please Stop Confusing Peaceful People with Extremists.
For some reason, some westerners – who can’t seem to wrap their head around the fact that Islamic EXTREMISTS and peaceful Muslims are two very different categories of humans – are targeting and attacking innocent people. And since terrorists don’t walk around with nametags or armbands announcing their status, they are mostly attacking teenage boys and young- to middle-aged women wearing headscarves, to misguidedly vent the frustrations they feel toward psychotic terrorists.
Please read my recent article on Racism in the USA fuelled by Donald Trump
Personally I don’t understand how people can confuse a Muslim for a terrorist. Just the same way I find it shocking that people confuse a Sikh for a terrorist, or any other totally crazy mistake. How can a simple human, someone just like me and you, be confused for a terrorist just because their religion or culture has adopted a headdress as part of their uniform if you will? It’s like suddenly believing that all Christians are terrorists because the majority of the crazy terrorists who go on mass shooting sprees at churches, schools, or anywhere else in the USA happen to be Christian. That would be crazy!
How About This
Being blindly prejudice against an entire race or culture or religion isn’t only ignorant (as you saw with my previous assumptions about brainwashing) but it can be dangerous, especially when voicing racist or bigoted comments. Even WORSE is confusing an entire race or religion for terrorists. That’s true for the Christian terrorists in the USA as much as it’s true for the Islamist Extremists.
The xenophobia happening in the U.S. right now needs to stop. Taking the time to meet new people and to show interest in their culture (or religion) is a wonderfully fun way to have real-life personal experiences that help us form our OWN opinions and ensure we are never unintentional racists or sheep simply following along the misguided path of an ignorant xenophobe. This is almost as valuable a lesson as the essential need to understand the difference between Islamic Extremists and Americans who believe in Islam or any of the 1.6 million Muslims living in any other country around the world.
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