Being Muslim in America

Tauhdedah El-Saadiq, of Louisville, reads a Koran while waiting for the ticket office to open for tickets to boxing legend Mu
Tauhdedah El-Saadiq, of Louisville, reads a Koran while waiting for the ticket office to open for tickets to boxing legend Muhammad Ali's "jenazah" (Muslim funeral prayer) service at Freedom Hall in Louisville, Kentucky, U.S., June 7, 2016. REUTERS/John Sommers II

Being Muslim in America is watching the country praise Muhammad Ali one day and an outpour of racist comments the next.

It's seeing how quickly smiles can morph into scorn.
It's watching everything you are dragged through the mud headline after headline.
It's turning off the television for the sake of your sanity.

It's my little sister not wanting me, in hijab, to take her to the local fair because she "wasn't ready" for her friends to know that she was Muslim. Because that's something that takes time, that takes preparation, that takes guts.

It's being "almost Muslim" or "kind of Muslim" but "not really Muslim."
Not "bad Muslim," not "conservative Muslim", not like that or those or them.
Not us.

Being Muslim in America is wondering if your neighbor secretly has a red hat sitting on their kitchen table. It's wondering if their idea of Making America Great involves you at all.

Being Muslim in America is watching person after person move through an airport security detector, then being caught mid stride and told, "Miss, that was the random. Please step to the side."

Being Muslim in America is wondering whether anything is ever random.
It's paranoia.

It's wondering who is sitting in your Masjid, camouflaged in attar and Arabic, taking tally of every reference to Syria and Palestine.

It's being asked "Where are you from?" followed by "No, where are you really from?" New York. New York. New York.
Oh. Well, my parents are from India.

Being Muslim in America is numbing.
It's getting angry, then thinking maybe you shouldn't be angry because you don't want to be an "angry Muslim." It's being shy, then thinking maybe you shouldn't be shy because you don't want to be an "oppressed Muslim." It's trying to be yourself while jumping to escape being shoved into boxes and labeled and silenced.

It's being told you don't belong. You'll never belong. It's peeling away hijabs and beards and layers of yourself and still being just not quite right.
Because if it's not your head, it's your skin. It's what you are or what you've been.

It's seeing Muslims on television only to talk about Muslims, as if the only thing worth hearing from us is a list of everything that we're not.

It's being armed with defenses. Just in case.
"No, all Muslims are not terrorists."
"No, not all terrorists are Muslim."
Armed with Quranic verses. Just in case.
5:32

It's being told to educate, having to prove and re-prove you, too, have a heart rate.
It's wearing bright colors, talking a little louder about Game of Thrones because "Hey, look, we're just like you."

Being Muslim in America is making excuses for hate because "Maybe they just don't know any better." As if ignorance is excuse enough for being treated less-human.

It's standing a little further away from the edge of the subway platform.
It's avoiding the comment section. Always avoiding the comment section.

Being Muslim in America is wrapping your body in flags, hand over heart pledging loyalty, constantly trying to prove your American pride all while knowing that a part of you bleeds with every drone strike in Pakistan, with every military invasion, with every war on terror that instills in you terror.

Being Muslim in America is living in the shadow of 9/11 despite not remembering 9/11, of reliving its aftermath a thousand times over. It's freedom of speech against you, freedom of religion except you.

It's figuring out who the shooter was and if he was "Muslim" because I have to know whether to maybe swap my hijab for a hat tomorrow. It's messages from friends to "stay safe" or "be careful.'

Being Muslim in America is back up against the wall, hands up where they can see them.
It's hands up in prayer, stomach empty, heart heavy
For every Muslim in America.