Monday, May 23, 2005

Feeling Crushed.

It's difficult. It's everywhere I go, be it the grocery store, work, television, radio, the internet. Prejudice. Prejudice against people like me. I am a Muslim. I am also an American. My family immigrated to this country long ago from a third world Muslim nation. I was born and raised as a Muslim. I was born and raised as an American. I recited the pledge of allegiance everyday and my prayers in the mosque. My Father and Mother taught me about Islam and the greatness of this country. From Islam I learned about compassion, honesty, the value of education, respect and dignity. From this country I learned about opportunity and strength. I love them both, my faith and my country. Never, in my wildest dreams, would I think that I would ever feel unwelcome by both.

I have visited an enormous number of blogs laced with anti-Islamic rhetoric. Mind you, these aren't back country morons looking to get a rise out of their readers. Rather, these are well spoken individuals, launching on tirades claiming that Islam is the new Nazism. Some proudly proclaim that we should be flushing the Holy Koran down the toilet and torturing Muslims around the world. One blog actually advocated interning American Muslims. "They can't be trusted," he argued. Another argued that Islam needs to "get with the 21st century." These are my fellow countrymen, the men and women I grew up to love. It is often that I feel hated by the majority of Americans out there. I'm sure that's not true, but it sure does feel that way.

Abroad I see my faith being shattered by radical Muslims. These wayward individuals are so desperate that they've lost all concept of what they are fighting in the name of. They blaspheme my religion and my concept of humanity by strapping bombs on themselves and killing civilians. They behead innocent men and women. Lost, are they, in the eyes of God.

Of course, an overwhelming amount of attention is given in this country to flag waving nationalists that employ stereotypical rhetoric to denigrate my faith. This attention is shared with bomb blasting terrorists abroad. In the United States, my compatriots are quickly generating a nationalist myth about Islam. They are using broad brush strokes to color the religion as violent and its followers, ignorant. It is not the religion that is at fault. It has been perverted and twisted by moronic radical followers and government institutions. Islam in this world is hardly the husk of what it truly is.

This leaves moderate American Muslims feeling orphaned. While hatred for Islam grows in this country, religious zealots are destroying Islam abroad. In the course of all of this, moderate Muslims simply have no voice. If anyone is going to save this country and Islam, it is moderate Muslims. But how? Who will listen? Who will help? Why do I need to feel alienated by both my country and my heritage? I am just one person, what difference can I make?

You can only imagine the pain this causes me. It is a crushing feeling.

40 Comments:

Blogger Anandi said...

I think the key is educating people that Islam is not a violent religion. The West Wing episode that ran after Sept 11th was pretty impressive, I thought - it had a great analogy comparing the differences between fundamentalists in both Islam and Christianity.

I am still uncomfortable with the increase in "patriotism" I see around me since Sept 11. I feel like there's an undercurrent of "crush Islam, or crush the brown people" or something that makes me very uneasy, being a brown person myself. Granted, it's a lot better than it was back then, but I still see it here and there when people talk fervently about supporting the war in Iraq, etc.

There will always be ignorant people out there, but just being open about your religion and its core beliefs will educate some folks who just didn't know any better...

2:58 PM  
Blogger NYPinTA said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

4:06 PM  
Blogger NYPinTA said...

Stupid people suck...
I don't know what else to say. Unfortunately, stupid people also seem to be the ones to get all the air time on TV and radio and get other usually not so stupid people thinking like them.
The dumbest... ok, one of the dumbest things I heard on TV right after the towers fell was this women ranting that 'they should all go home' and 'I'm a 7th generation american!'
Umm... ok. And that means what exactly? You're better how?

4:07 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

You gotta love double standards right? We label an entire religion violent based on the actions of a few, and feel justified in declaring war on an entire country because of it.

I get so sick of hearing people bash an entire religion based on the vocal minority. Why do we never get to see the moderates? The true representatives of any religion? Probably because, as John Stewart says, most moderates don't run around screaming for moderation-its an oxymoron. So the few radicals will always get more attention. But I had hoped we were intelligent enough to realize that was what they were- radicals.

BTW-I don't understand those go home comments either. I am only a first generation American, but am Western European in lineage, so people never tell me that. While my darker friends whose families have been here for 100 years are told to go home. What?

4:44 PM  
Blogger The Senator said...

I'm a Catholic, and I sometimes feel the same way you do. All you can do is proudly stick up for your beliefs. Be unapologetic. And, help bridge the gap. Hang in there, Vavoom.

6:07 PM  
Blogger Fred said...

Powerful post. American history is not pretty. It took constitutional amendments to achieve things we take for granted today. Those amendments were not easy to come by, and the people who fought for them are an important part of our history.

Hang in there - the fight is worthwhile and will make us all better in the end.

6:55 PM  
Blogger dreadcow said...

Oh, how I despise religion. Created by man and subject to man's transgressions, such as prejudice.

I have a few comrades in arms who I'll never understand. They truly believe that Islam is a backwards religion and think that anything that's Muslim-esque should be stamped out of the US. They're also hard core Christians.

Like I said... I hate religion.

7:59 PM  
Blogger Davydgrey said...

Hmmm people continue to amaze me, I am part Native American and proud of it. Does that mean I can tell the rest of you to get out of my country? One of this countries founding values was religious tolerance. Our country is a melting pot of cultures, races, and religions, and, like a metallic alloy, is stronger than the original constituents. Tell 'em where to shove it vavoom.

8:10 PM  
Blogger Andrew said...

You and I have differing viewpoints concerning the way Islam has, historically, spread to every country in which it's now the dominant faith. It's only in the past 60 or so years that the West's liberality has allowed Islam to grow peacefully within its countries' borders. Prior to that, in every case military conquest and domination through cultural and religious deconstruction were the 'norm' for its spread.

If my country were facing what I perceived to be the next in a long line of military takeovers I may have some issues to deal with, too.

Maybe the 'moderate' Islamist view finds this difficult, just as the 'moderate' Christian finds rejection of the all other faiths' claims on truth difficult, too. But the logic and the facts in both cases cannot be denied.

I suppose at the heart of the matter is this: it's very hard for a faith system which at its core involves submission to a singular 'way' in every area of life (including laws, government, etc) to co-exist within a nation whose estalishment was framed as "an experiment in democracy under [the Christian] God".

No doubt the Christians currently suffering--as you are, only from the reverse position--in many predominantly Muslim countries will understand your pain and turmoil right now. I cannot begin to understand it, not having shared anything close to the experience. But the anguish you expressed in your post moved me deeply and I hope you'll accept my heart-felt concern for you and your family.

8:28 PM  
Blogger Moose said...

The only advice I have is that you continue to live your life to honor you creator and country. It seems odd to me that all muslims are labeled terrorists, but we completely ignore the radical right. You know, those who see fit to take others lives in abortion clinic bombings and the like. Keep your head up, and educate the ignorant masses that there is a difference.

8:45 PM  
Anonymous cjt said...

In the mid sized southern town I am banished to right from DC not long ago the local Mosque had a sign placed by the road announcing the expansion of the cemetary. Someone spray painted 'fill it up fast" upon it. This was met by great condemnation by the local press and politicians here. It could well be that b....ds who did this may be well spoken too, even educated. Some of the most educated I have known can show this stupidity, so try not to understand them too much beyond the disfunctions they exhibit. There is little to need to understand other than the anti-american behavior, they have never learned the true spirit of the country.

What you are experiencing has happened before, to Americans of German and Japanese descent and others, the ignorant "must hate" crowd and the overly fearful have to have an object for release of these tensions of theirs.

I'm old enough to have very vague memories of the segregated bathrooms and restaurants in this country. I'm afraid to say that this behavior lately can be the norm too many times.

Personally, I will point and blame much of this on cheap toupee wearing phony TV preachers who spew their evil enmasse.

8:59 PM  
Blogger mindful said...

Andrew: Considering that the spread of Christianity into the civilized regions of the world was also marked by, as you say, "military conquest and domination through cultural and religious deconstruction" (Remember the Roman Empire? The crusades? The conquistadores?), I'm not sure I understand your point. Both Islam and Christianity have violent pasts. But that doesn't mean that the underlying faith is any less pure. The holy books of both religions have the equivalent of "turn the other cheek". Why don't we focus on that peaceful message, and denounce those of each faith who depart from it?

9:04 PM  
Blogger mindful said...

And vavoom: Hang in there, man. The haters are still a small minority. It's people like you that help keep it that way. :)

9:09 PM  
Blogger Teri said...

Vavoom, I am sorry you have to be subjected to pure stupidity. It seems this country has come so far and then just stopped in its progress.
I have had to endure prejudice based on my religion, even my own father-in-law who was a very educated man, wouldn't attend my wedding because I am a different religion than my husband. I am fortunate that I grew up in Los Angeles and was exposed to and experienced so many different cultures. I also have my parents to thank for not instilling in me hatred for someone based on skin color or religion. I hope you keep the faith and realize for as many ignorant idiots out there, there are many other Americans who do not share their belief and accept people for who they are without looking at skin color or religion to make a judgement.

10:10 PM  
Blogger Mentally Challenged said...

Powerful post. Hang in there, Vavoom and keep writing these great posts!

In WWII my country,(Canada), put Japanese Canadians in what, in effect, were Canadian "concentration camps", while our country men fought and died for, among other reasons,
to free people in Europe from "concentration camps".

Our Canadian Japanese, who were in our Canadian "concentration camps", had the privilege, courtesy of the then Liberal Government of Canada, of having their homes stolen and sold while they were away.

It amazes me that any Japanese Canadian votes for the Liberal party in a Canadian election. They are a forgiving people I guess.

10:26 PM  
Blogger A Fashionista said...

Yuh know Vavoom, lots and lots of people are ignorant bumpkins. It's not only that they're ignorant about people of color or other religions. I work in a hospital, and I can tell you, people are just fucking stupid period. Anti Islamic prejudice is just incidental. Cause these people just spew utter stupidity about everything. My mother would have knocked my block off if I ever made an off color comment about another race, or religion or handicap. I'm grateful for that kind of loving mother, I don't notice color first. She was the epitome of love and loved every one. I miss her so much. More parents should be like her. Having a parent like her made me GREAT.

10:53 PM  
Blogger Aurelius said...

Hey Vavoom,
It's nice to see the level of support for you in your commenters.
A friend of mine was on a world trip a few years ago. He flew into JFK while the WTC was smouldering, and spent a week with friends in NYC. They were Catholic Palestinian Arabs. He tells similar stories to yours, having seen the vilification his friends suffered.
Keep your head up
Aurelius

11:36 PM  
Blogger dahvid said...

well vavoom, be yourself. practice the teachings of the koran and let them reflect in the eyes of the world. never let others fulfil their 'prophercies' that muslims=terrorists. stay strong.

11:55 PM  
Blogger Fei said...

Even through tough times, good people must look into the good of others. Without such capacity all is lost.

"In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can't build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery and death."

-Anne Frank

3:07 AM  
Blogger An80sNut said...

This is a powerful post. Thank you for sharing that with us, Vavoom. Fear of the unknown breeds unneccessary hatred. I work with many "born again" Christians (most of them just recent adopters of their faith) that have actually said to me, "You are either with us or against us." Nothing ticks me off more than hearing that. Tensions are high still and I don't see the current bias disappearing any time soon. I do find it interesting that right now I wish more people had gotten to know you before this post and had gotten to put a kinder face on Islam.

4:18 AM  
Blogger beakerkin said...

Vavoom

If you have read my blog you know that I fall into the latter category.However there is a person that is offering help to people in your community.

Author Stephen Schwartz is a Sufi
Muslim and an American patriot. Yes you can be both and many people
are.

If you wish I am friendly with his
research assistant and can provide you with an E Mail adress. I tell Muslims that if you care about the future of Islam in the US then it is important to stand behind Stephen Schwartz. The people at CAIR do more harm then any blog could do.

7:33 AM  
Blogger FJ said...

Hey Vavoom...

You're a good bloke mate, don't let them get to you.

Religions don't bother me, and although I am not religious I am not against anyone else being so, if that is what they choose.
If they don't bother me, I don't bother them and a happy medium is achieved.

It's the extremists that I have a problem with... the vocal and often violent minority that gives all the genuine, quiet, non-violent believers a bad name.

They're the bad eggs, Vavoom, along with those who profess their hatred towards people like yourself out of ignorance.

If they got to know you, they might realise that you are not a bad person and that just because you are religious doesn't mean you are a terrorist.

They're the losers, not you.

...FJ.

7:34 AM  
Blogger secondsb4wake said...

I agree completely Vavoom. I personally think that the term "fundamentalist" should be reframed, because the fundamentals of Islam would never ever beget violence. I think that the use of this word makes people think that car bombers and other terrorists are 'by the book,' somehow, which couldn't be further from the truth.

7:49 AM  
Blogger GSR said...

I'll echo Fred's comments that the fight is definitely worthwhile, although that does seem a bit trite coming from me, a white, Irish Catholic kid who hasn't felt the personal pain of widespread discrimination.

Its' the radicals and the ignorant that drive the fear-mongering and hate and although here in the US, it's taken time, too much time, (i.e. civil rights), progress continues to be made. Easy? No way. Worthwhile? Absolutely.

8:25 AM  
Blogger Lady of the House said...

Wonderful post. Hopefully things will get better as the world becomes more educated by writers like you.

"Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and consciencious stupidity."

- Martin Luther King, Jr.

8:28 AM  
Anonymous little john said...

V-Interesting post. Isn't it interesting that you believe that hate and prejudice is being directed at you from one of the supposedly most tolerant and diverse urban areas in the U.S.? So much for all of the "ignorant country bumpkin" comments. Another commenter focused on the religious right. For every abortion clinic bombing I can show you one hundred acts of terrorism from self-described Muslims. In addition, in the U.S. violent right wing terrorists are widely ostricized. Can the Muslim world say the same of its radicals? When the U.S. public sees Saudi Arabia, Iran, Sudan, Syria, Pakistan, Yemen, Egypt, Libya, pre-liberation Iraq and Afghanistan they see sharia law, the complete subjugation of women, despotic tyranny, a total disregard for religious pluralism and either oil dependent economies or economies that don't really exist. Oh yeah, and a violent anti-Americanism which is based, in part, on their own helplessness. These observations by the American public are no reason or excuse to hate our fellow citizens, but the moderate Muslims are doing a very poor job of fighting the radicals who are hijacking your faith. Any suggestions on how moderate Muslims can reclaim the initiative? Can your fellow citizens help in any way?

10:25 AM  
Blogger beakerkin said...

Little John

Stephen Schwartz is a Sufi Muslim and a patriot. He is trying to reclaim his faith from what he sees
as Wahabi extreemism.

I agree with you that there is a problem. Terrorism is condoned or excused and that has to stop. The equivocation with abortion clinic bombers also does not work.

Shwartz has a group that he calls CIS. He risks his life to oppose the Wahabis every day. Sadly he is not appreciated by some on the right . Doing the right thing is its own reward.

10:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The "radical's" as you call them are also in the USA. Don't like our prejudice, then go to your muslim country and get blown to little tiny bits the next time or the current time as it is, where your nation is fighting each other over "religious" beliefs. However, your religion is not violent.

USA aka America, has long been a prejudice country. Even against our own. So, you know... go someplace where it is leagal to shoot someone that Don't see it your way.

Here your given our medicare where our own people don't get it. here your given the right to free speach, again our people don't have that right. Here your given section 8 housing (again and again... the white american is deprived of this), your given welfare, your given any and every last penny of OUR tax dollars.

But you have the NERVE to complain about prejudice. The founding leader of our country.

GET OUT OF BOSTON and GO BACK to where you MIGRATED From.

11:20 AM  
Anonymous cjt said...

^ An example is worth a thousand words.

I rest my case.

11:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Davydgrey said: "I am part Native American and proud of it. Does that mean I can tell the rest of you to get out of my country?"

Well.. part of you can. :P

12:14 PM  
Blogger NYPinTA said...

BTW- that anonymous post above was me. I forgot to log in. *sigh*

12:14 PM  
Blogger beakerkin said...

Annonymous

I am a survivor of WTC and an eyewtiness to 9-11. I saw things that you can not imagine. I do not blame Vavoom for 9-11.

There is a problem with groups like CAIR equivocating. However plenty of other communities are poorly led.

12:23 PM  
Blogger RT said...

I am so glad you brought this subject up again, Vavoom! I saw where you mentioned it once before and I wanted to comment, but I lost the post. While most of my sentiments have already been expressed in the other comments (the former, not some of those latter ones!), I would like to share this story and add a bit:

Shortly after 9/11, one of our local grade schools planned a trip to the nearby Mosque just to explain a little about the religion and to show the kids that they have nothing to fear from it. Well, the parents threw a fit and protested until the school finally canceled the trip.

Normally, I don't agree with mixing religion and schools, but in this case, I thought it would go a long way in helping these youngsters understand that they have nothing to fear from the Muslim religion, and in a time when they were very confused about it and feared a lot. Instead, the message these parents sent was just the opposite, they were basically telling they're kids that it is OK to fear and hate Muslims. (And with kids being kids, and not being able to distinguish, I'm guessing that they will probably grow up to fear and hate anyone of a different color or different religious background... Basically, anyone different than themselves.) It's clear case of ignorance teaching ignorance.

From what I've seen, people tend to fear the things they don't understand and in a lot of people -under the right influence, with the right amount of ignorance and arrogance- those fears turn into hate. It's unfortunate, but it happens. I know it feels like you're being singled out, but really, you're not. It happens to everyone at one point or another. Some of the ones being discriminated against will try to conform and fit in, and others will stand strong and try to educate. I'm glad you're one of the strong ones!

Don't lose that, and don't waste your energies and emotions on those who simply refuse to learn.

3:28 PM  
Blogger Vavoom said...

Anonymous (the racist one): You claim, "GET OUT OF BOSTON and GO BACK to where you MIGRATED From." First, your and you're have different usage. Please check your local grammar text. Second, I was born American. I never migrated from anywhere. Get fucked. Don't tell fellow Americans to go back to where they came from. cjt is right, you are the classic example of a terrible person. Have fun living a life filled with hatred, ignorance and mediocrity. As for me, I'm off to have fun in Boston and enjoy being an American Muslim. I'm gonna stay in this country for the rest of my life and exercise my free speech. There isn't a damn thing you can do about it. Ahhhh, sweet liberty!

6:09 PM  
Blogger Vavoom said...

All (other than racist anonymous): Thank you for your kind comments. I'm feeling much better today knowing good people like you are out there.
Anonymous (the racist one): I amend my previous comment. Don't tell *anyone* to go back where they came from.

Now, I'm really off to Boston!

6:23 PM  
Blogger Fred said...

Vavoom:

The St. Petersburg Times recently ran a story on Sami Al-Arian's family. I thought you may want to read it.

http://www.sptimes.com/2005/05/12/Floridian/Growing_up_Al_Arian.shtml

6:39 PM  
Anonymous little john said...

beakerkin:Thanks for the heads up on S. Schwatrz (doesn't sound Islamic!) I'll keep my eyes open for his organization and support their efforts. V-One ass out of thirty-six. That's not too bad, maybe we are making progress. Can't wait to hear about Boston.

1:09 PM  
Blogger beakerkin said...

Shwatrz was raised in a secular home with a Jewish father and a Catholic mother and he was raised in a secular world. He converted to Sufi Islam and I have locked horns with him several times over History.

I wish there were more Stephen Shwartz's around and less CAIR types.

7:32 PM  
Blogger bum from jersey said...

you have to let it go dude. its a sad world we live in today and you are going to encounter it everywhere you go. i understand as a muslim you probably will encounter it more than others but if you let it get you down its only going to hurt you. your parents probably told you this when you were a child but i think its still applicable today. if you let bad people/bad comments get to you, you just empower the people who said it. shrug it off and move on. you know who you are, your friends know who you are, and so does your family. thats all that should matter. its okay to get upset over it because naturally i think anyone would but don't reveal that has gotten to you. that doesn't help you in the least bit.

4:00 PM  
Blogger Vavoom said...

Fred: Thanks for the link. It was an amazing story.
beakerkin: Thanks for the head's up on Schwartz.
Bum: You're right. I need to improve when it comes to this sort of stuff.

9:36 PM  

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