Love, Hate and Islamophobia

I’m exceedingly proud to introduce my first guest blogger since the launch of the website earlier this year – my eminently talented and thoughtful younger sister, Jennifer. I will not be posting this week because nothing I have to say is nearly as urgent, and this deserves our collective attention. Please read and share.

Max and Jenny

In 2001, I met a man at work who intrigued me. We began dating shortly after the tragic 9/11 terrorist attacks. In 2003, I married this man, and in 2007 we had our first child together – a beautiful little girl to join my older daughter from a previous marriage.

In 2016, we will celebrate our 13th wedding anniversary with our children at Disney World – our favorite place on earth. Max loves me more than seems justified, but he’s exactly the father my kids deserve, the kind of man I wish I’d been able to look up to as a child. Everyone he works, prays, plays or engages with loves and respects him. He’s one of those rare people who doesn’t seem to have any enemies. But there’s just one little thing. Max is a Muslim.

The sad fact is, despite the qualities listed above, and the other terrific nuances that make Max a better man than most, some people that don’t know him at all hate him because of his religious beliefs. Oh, and they hate my 8 year-old daughter too. Facebook taught me that yesterday. In fact, Facebook has been educating me about the inherent disgust for my family for years now. However after last Friday’s senseless tragedy in Paris, the rejection of my loved ones reached a fever pitch.

It was a former aunt by marriage who posted a “fact” sheet (which I have not yet vetted) that delivered the blow that led to this post. The data in the meme purported to reflect Japanese restrictions on Muslims in their country. Said aunt (who has, it must be owned, recognized her prejudicial error, removed the post and apologized) added the editorial comment, “And so should the US,” in reference to Japan’s alleged closed door policy to Islamic people.

It’s not like I haven’t experienced different forms of hate or racism by proxy over the course of my relationship with Max. Quite the contrary. I’ve had my luggage contents dumped on the floor for all to see in an airport in Omaha. You know, because I was traveling with a bearded brown man. A hateful employee at O’Hare, the world’s largest as well as one of the most diverse travel hubs, attempted to prevent my husband and I from flying on the same plane to our honeymoon destination.

More recently, I was waved through a security checkpoint at the 9/11 Memorial in New York City even though my bracelets were tripping the metal detectors. However my cousin by marriage, wearing a hijab, was harassed about a blue dolphin statue that I purchased for my daughter at the Museum of Natural History. My cousin had been kind enough to tote the item for me on her stroller, and her kindness turned into an ugly memory.

I’ve asked these questions a million times. Does every Christian (or even an atheist gun owner) pay the price every time a rogue member of the flock shoots up an abortion clinic? Did every white American male have to apologize for or denounce the Unabomber? How about Timothy McVeigh? Did we close the borders to white Protestants after the evils perpetrated by the Klu Klux Klan? The obvious answer to all of these queries is “No.” Why obvious? Because it’s absurd to expect every American or Christian to denounce the distorted beliefs of a crazy person in order to stave off personal suspicion. As a culture, we do not afford the Muslim community that same courtesy.

You know those people that spout racist speech but then take cover under dubious claims when caught? They’ll say “Oh, I have black friends” after making pointedly ignorant statements about African-American culture. This phenomenon exists in discussions about the Islamic faith too. When I’m frustrated and emboldened enough to call someone out for their hate speech, and this has happened a few times, some are very quick to tell me they have Muslim friends who are “good people.” All better then, right?

1) No. I don’t believe you have Muslim friends. Because if you did, they would tell you that your gross, painful generalizations are unfounded.

2) I don’t think a Muslim – or any religious/ethnic minority – would befriend you knowing your opinions.

3) The second you protest that you have a ____ friend and are not a prejudiced against ______s as a result, you have lost the argument.

Max is a man of seemingly limitless tolerance and patience. But I’m not. Those security disasters I mentioned? My husband waits for them to end with humility. He does what he’s told and asks me to remain quiet so we can get through it and not draw extra attention to ourselves. He accepts that additional layers of mistrust and scrutiny are his lot in life – that he has to deal with being unnecessarily harassed for the good of the country. I sit there incensed and mortified. He just endures. I’ve learned to internalize my anger because if Max is willing to undergo racial profiling so we can board our plane to Disney World, who am I to presume greater entitlement to respect? Who am I to disrupt the peace he so desperately wants? But instead of getting used to the repetition of these indignities, they fester inside.

This is the world my daughters will inherit, the youngest of whom is being proudly raised in the Islamic faith. That’s what hurts and scares me the most. My husband is a big boy who can take care of himself. He was an adult with excellent coping skills before, during and after the horrible events of 9/11 that changed our country. But my baby girl is sweet and innocent, thinks the best of everyone. I dread the day she realizes that some will reject her based on one part of who she is. How will she react the first time she’s on the receiving end of a racist remark or hate speech about the only religion she knows? How will I react? My nearest and dearest should start saving bail money.

I spent part of yesterday morning watching President Obama’s speech at the G20 Summit in Turkey. I mentally applauded a particular quote as it was uttered, but in light of this recent, personal emotional roller coaster it bears repeating:

I had a lot of disagreements with George W. Bush on policy, but I was very proud after 9/11 when he was adamant and clear about the fact that this is not a war on Islam. And the notion that some of those who have taken on leadership in his party would ignore all of that, that’s not who we are. On this, they should follow his example. It was the right one. It was the right impulse. It’s our better impulse. We don’t discriminate against people because of their faith. We don’t kill people because they’re different than us. That’s what separates us from them.”

For inquiries, please contact jennifer.ashrafi@yahoo.com 

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17 thoughts on “Love, Hate and Islamophobia

  1. Coach Niquenya November 18, 2015 / 5:13 am

    Woot woot! Wholeheartedly agree and applauding you for sharing this very personal perspective.

    Like

    • Becky Sarwate November 18, 2015 / 3:26 pm

      Thank you for your support! It is greatly appreciated.

      Like

  2. bookcraver58 November 20, 2015 / 12:58 am

    Jennifer: Your story sounds very much like the story of my parents. They have gone through many of the things that you went through and I have gone through many of the things you fear your daughter may have to go through. It was through junior high that I went through the worst of it, but as I got older and surrounded myself with those who were more mature and open-minded things got better. If you or your daughter (when she gets older) ever needs to talk to someone who knows exactly what is like to grow up in a mixed race family, please feel free to reach out to me.

    Like

    • Jennifer Ashrafi November 20, 2015 / 4:13 pm

      BOOKCRAVER – thank you so much for your response and for your support. The truth is, the members of my extended family by marriage have suffered far greater indecencies than we have. I’m guessing, in part, because I am a blond haired blue eyed American and when my husband and I stand next to each other it’s hard to tell where he comes from. I am always open to keeping the discussion open, to hearing other people’s stories, and to furthering my own education as well. My experiences alone to not make me an expert. I would love to continue to keep in touch with you. Best wishes to you and yours. My email is at the end of the essay if you’d like to remain in contact.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Raf November 23, 2015 / 7:27 pm

    Hi Jennifer
    I read your excellent article in Dawn news website and found the link for here. It is so well written and such a great work! I also went thru similar experience as your husband and having Muslim sounding name can make you a soft target for some law enforcement people to perform their “duties”. I use to get humiliation at the airports and I travel a lot for business. One day I was not in best of modes and got upset and asked the agent When will I be treated like an US citizen (I am a naturalized citizen for past 10 years)? She gave me phone number and website for GOES (Global Online Enrollment System). It is not just for Muslim but for everyone. i applied for the exception and got approved the same day (you go and meet GOES agent at the airport). Since then my boarding pass say “Pre-Checked” and I go in different line without taking off my shoes or the humiliation that I use to experience.

    Anyways I do fear for my kids growing up in somewhat hostile environment and off all the place in the US. Believe it or not my 10 year son at middle school was once bullied and was called Osama’s ancestor in 6th grade even though I brought that issue with school but still you can imagine how it went to him. And this was in SFO bay area, one of the most liberal places in country. I can’t even think about moving to Red States! However I must also say that Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia are big time responsible for the mess we are in and they have no intention of fixing it since it helps them divert the attention from their monarchy 😦

    Again thank you so much for writing such an excellent article.

    Like

    • Jennifer Ashrafi November 24, 2015 / 3:24 pm

      Raf,

      First, I want to thank you for reading my essay and for reaching out to me here. The response I have received continues to overwhelm me.

      Second, you have presented me with something I did not know existed. I plan to spread the word on this GOES option to my friends and family. It is a shame that this is not commonly known in the communities that could benefit from it the most. Thank you for your information.

      There is certainly not one solution to the global problem. Many countries have played a role in where things stand today. I am no expert, I am not an academic nor a politician. I am simply one person who decided silence was no longer the answer for me and I plan to keep speaking. My work is clearly not finished with just this one post.

      Regards,

      Jennifer

      Like

  4. Samia November 24, 2015 / 7:06 pm

    I’m a Muslim, I live in Saudi Arabia
    To be honest I can’t handle with racism that I receive it when I travel to Europe.
    One day, in hethrow airport
    when a passport officer saw my passport Asked me with angry face.
    – Why did you come here ??
    and through my passport.
    Onther day,
    Me and Mom “we wearing Hijab” went to bags shop
    when my Mom touched a bag, the worker shouted ” donnnn’t touchhh !!! ” but all Europeans and Chinese in the same shop at the same time wore the bags to try it !!!! not just touch it

    For humanity, you and I desevre a best tratment .

    Like

    • Jennifer Ashrafi November 24, 2015 / 8:49 pm

      Samia,

      Thank you for taking the time to read my essay. So many people from around the world have sent me kind thoughts and also stories that resemble yours and mine. I am happy that people are coming forward with their frustrations and are, therefore, keeping the conversation moving. I wish you peace and happiness.
      Jennifer

      Like

  5. Yasir November 25, 2015 / 7:43 am

    I read your story on Dawn.com and it routed me to here. You spoke and that is the key that 1.6 billion Muslims should use to change the narrative and oppose the opinion maker, racist opinion maker. Yesterday I watched a clip of Canadian Prime Minister Victory Speech, there he expressed a story about a woman wearing a hijab, what that hijab woman had said to PM during election campaign, hit his heart. She expressed it orally while you did it in written. Both are fine ways to change this narrative, a narrative if not changed would lead to a wider conflict one day, because patience in all its forms has limited capacity.

    In case you want to watch the clip, here is the address:

    Like

  6. Bobby Skafish March 29, 2016 / 8:26 pm

    Jennifer,
    Congratulations for being acclaimed for your blog post. Max is a sweet man and you have a wonderful family.

    Like

  7. Bobby Skafish March 29, 2016 / 8:52 pm

    Jennifer,
    Sincere congratulations on being acclaimed for your blog posting. Max is a sweet man and you have a wonderful family. All the best.

    Like

    • Jennifer Ashrafi March 30, 2016 / 11:04 pm

      Hey Bobby! Thanks so much for this message and the one left on my phone. I appreciate you reaching out. Hope you and the family are doing well.

      Like

  8. Camille Jedlicka June 23, 2016 / 5:42 pm

    Hi Jennifer,
    I really liked your essay and will share it as much as possible. You are an amazing writer. I’m so sorry that your family has to endure an unfair amount of scrutiny based on the actions of others. It’s extremely upsetting to hear the hateful remarks made by people and my heart breaks for your daughter. Hopefully, your voice and others will stand up against racism.

    Like

    • Jennifer Ashrafi June 23, 2016 / 8:32 pm

      Thank you very much for your kind words. The support and words of encouragement I have received in the last few months has been overwhelming to say the least. I am truly humbled by all of it.

      Like

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