I think I’ve lost track of the number of times random strangers have complimented my “headwrap” or “hair do.” I’ve lost track of the random “assalamu alaikums” that always make my day, but each and every time it had me grinning ear to ear, so proud of my faith.
Everyone’s world was shaken early last week as we heard about the Chapel Hill Shooting, the murder of Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha and Razan Abu-Salha. This wasn’t just a far away attack that hurt us, but it was too close to home. They were too close to us, too much like us. We see our friends in them. We see ourselves in them.
I wish I could say it stopped there, but we all know it hasn’t. Mustafa Mattan was shot in his own home last Monday in Ottowa. In the same week, the Islamic Center in Texas was set on fire, six windows were shot out with a gun at the Muslim Secondary School in Montreal, and a man was attacked while grocery shopping in Dearborn. This is just a glimpse.
These are just headlines of lives and stories that ripple into innumerable effects. A death doesn’t kill just a life – it kills the spirit of those around them, and it has the power to kill hope and faith and bravery. Last week, I saw hundreds of our community members gather together to show that we do not accept this, and to prove that we stand together.
I felt confident and defiant. But as I watched two sisters clutching each other, crying for the murder of their friends, as I listened to a girl tell us that if she didn’t seem scared, then she was doing a better job pretending than she thought, and as I read about a father attacked in a Kroger less than 20 minutes from where I live, I was terrified.
I’m terrified because I couldn’t handle it if this happened to my brother. I couldn’t stand and watch as someone tried to lay a hand on my father, the most gentle man I know. I couldn’t bear to lose a single one of my friends in the hands of senseless killing, and I’m terrified because this is now our reality.
I’m scared of how this will affect the people around me. I anxiously watch debates of women who want to take off their hijabs after all of this. I see people who want to hide their Islam, and it breaks me to see strong people being stripped of their bravery.
The truth is that there’s nothing any of these victims could have done to prevent all this, but maybe there is something we can do to keep it from happening over and over again. Whoever you are or wherever you may be, don’t think for a second that this doesn’t affect you or that this is not your problem. Inform yourself, spread the word, and get involved. There is always something you can do. Write about it. Paint about it. Talk about it. Speak up, before your voice is taken from you.