Being Muslim in This Country

Our dear friend (and former KIPL board member) Ahsan Latif wrote this beautiful piece in response to events over the weekend, but really in response to the past 18 years. We repost it with his permission. We encourage you to read it, really take it in, and join with us in building a future where people are accepted and valued and celebrated for who they are and the beauty they bring to the world.

Being Muslim in this country is meeting someone new and having to drop clues that you aren’t a terrorist until they eventually see you as an American, then repeating that interaction for the rest of your life. 

Being Muslim in this country is going to a Catholic school where entire classes are built around learning, discussing and eventually shrugging off the problematic verses in the Bible. But you are individually asked to stand at the front of your social studies class and answer for the “faults” of the Quran in questions from your indignant classmates. 

Being Muslim in this country is being asked to condemn the statements, actions and especially the violence perpetrated by people you don’t know from all over the world, if they are Muslim. Also, being asked what you’re personally doing to stop them. Politicians proudly proclaim your utility to this country is based on whether you can help us “fight the terrorists” (clarification: they only care about the Brown ones).

Being Muslim in this country is being asked if you hate gay people by folks that love the sandwiches at their favorite anti-gay chicken restaurant.

Being Muslim in this country is being asked if you support terrorists by someone who never thinks twice about shopping at Hobby Lobby, a company which happily funded terrorism as long as those terrorists looted Iraq of “Christian” artifacts they could put in a U.S. museum.

Being Muslim in this country is learning to examine and reexamine how any words you say could be used against you, in any context. It’s finding out that any publicity you get will be featured on anti-Muslim websites that portray you as a member of some kind of sleeper cell. 

Being Muslim in this country is being a refugee from a war zone and after living in camps for four years, being selected to make a home here. It’s becoming active in your community and becoming a vocal leader. It’s being elected to state and then national office as the first Black Muslim woman in Congress. 

Being Muslim in this country is after all you’ve been through being told unless you preface all of your comments with a lengthy condemnation of 9/11, it’s not clear you think it was a horrific event in our country’s history. 

It’s having public figures question if you are an American or a Muslim first (because you can’t be both). It’s having the President take four words you said and splicing them with video of the planes hitting the towers and the buildings burning as if you’re not American enough to understand the pain in those images. 

People from U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw, to the guy you think you have a cordial relationship with at work, all presume that because you’re a Muslim you could never see 9/11 the way they do. They need to hear you say you were shocked and scared on 9/11 just like them. And if you could repeat it a few times just so they know that’s how you feel, it would help them better understand that you’re one of the “good” ones. By “good” they mean good at satisfying their prejudices. 

I stand with Ilhan Omar because I know when she says on 9/11 “some people did something,” she references so much pain, sadness, and fear that we both understand as Americans and Muslims. She’s saying that those nineteen men are the ones responsible for the attacks, not the millions of American Muslims who live under that cloud of suspicion. 

Being a Muslim in this country is knowing that most Americans outright believe or secretly suspect we are all responsible for 9/11.

Ahsan Latif is a lawyer and serves as president of Crescent Peace Society, a Kansas City-area interfaith organization seeking to enhance the understanding of Muslim cultures through educational and cultural activities involving the exchange of ideas and experiences among people of diverse cultures. He lives in Lawrence with his wife Farah and their three young children. 

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  • Barbara johnston
    commented 2019-04-16 10:46:56 -0500
    Excellent post. May we non-Muslims acknowledge the harm done to our Islamic sisters and brothers in terms of bias and discrimination, and move beyond that, and embrace our relatives as allies working to create a more peaceful world, starting right now, right here.

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