I had to answer for 9/11 when I was in the fourth grade.
I felt like I was under constant surveillance from teachers, students, and neighbors. At nine years old, I had no idea how or why I should be defending my religion, or why kids suddenly were asking if I was from Afghanistan. I would hear my parents talking about the latest hate crime at home every day, then have to go to school and pray that no one would mention Islam in class.
The forced disappearances came later. Random family friends and acquaintances would vanish from the tri-state area.
Sometimes, they showed up after several months. I’m not quite sure what happened to the others.
But I’m not here to talk about how I became a second-class citizen after September 11, 2001.
As I got older, the shouts of “Islam means peace” got louder and louder. Mostly to mask the war cries against every brown person in sight.
I started wondering why white writers never had to publish essays about why we all shouldn’t believe them to be Neo-Nazis or members of the KKK. Or why the FBI hadn’t arrested all anti-abortion individuals, in order to prevent future shootings in family planning clinics. Better yet, why weren’t all convicted white male serial rapists asked to speak on behalf of their entire demographic?
The answers to all of these questions should be fairly obvious.
I’m not here to talk about the myriad of issues that Muslims face here. Not even going to touch the reality around how Muslims are being killed left and right by terrorists during Ramadan, racist Americans, and Obama’s drone war, but we are still expected to step away from our grief to convince people that we condemn acts of terror.
This is about how tired I am of hearing that, as a Muslim, I bear the burden of policing my own community, even when no evidence of such a threat exists. As I watch the rise of violence against Muslims and brown people in general go unpublicized, prominent Muslims are actually using their platforms to tell the public that that fighting terrorism is our burden to bear.
American Muslims, who face more intolerance from this country now more than ever, are being tasked with tolerance. We shouldn’t have to tolerate FBI agents who infiltrate our mosques, toy with innocent lives, and target the mentally ill to try and “radicalize” them. I am told that these infringements on our basic rights as U.S. citizens are important for our safety.
Maybe it would be a different story if FBI tactics actually worked. Or if there was any evidence to justify their bigoted strategies. The fact is that the FBI’s own data shows that their extensive counterterrorism efforts have failed to actually intercept a terrorist plot. NYPD schemes have been even more embarrassing – so much so, in fact, that they had to dissolve an entire unit for its worthless efforts. Taxpayer dollars have been spent sending cops to stalk college students on whitewater rafting trips, while ignoring legitimate terror threats.
Why isn’t the discussion about police reforms also being vocally applied to the injustices served against Muslims?
Muslims who lost friends and family members in the September 11 attacks are denied their right to mourn. They were too busy defending their faith and their right to privacy. Now, we are suddenly obligated to be protectors, to be spied on and detained, even when we have no information.
We are all too scared of being the targets of racially-motivated attacks to stand up against absurd claims that we are a threat to national security. You know what is a threat to national security? The FBI, because they suck at their job. FBI records expose our country’s incompetence when it comes to protecting U.S. citizens, including Muslims.
Yes, as an American Muslim, I am entitled to the same protection from mass shootings as all other Americans.
When a white man tries to kill an entire family for being “dirty Arabs,” mainstream media calls it a neighborhood dispute. When a Muslim woman is attacked and her unborn baby is murdered, her religion is not even mentioned in the headline. When a non-practicing Muslim commits a horrific act of violence, suddenly all Muslims are to blame.
Of course, if you see something suspicious, you should report it to local authorities. That applies to everyone. My personal responsibility to speak up is no greater than anyone else’s just because I am a Muslim and attend a mosque.
I shouldn’t have to feel guilty after every terror attack. I don’t need to assert my patriotism to those who wish to label an entire Abrahamic religion as dangerous. I shouldn’t have to be this scared of being an Arab Muslim woman in this country.
So, FBI, if you’re spying on me as I write this: please do better. My family and I need to feel safe again.