What It’s Like To Be Treated As A Different Breed
February 15, 2017
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Imagine a moment where you are suddenly forced into a corner, literally, by the very people who only a few days ago were perhaps friends. That single moment changes your life in ways you can never imagine. All of sudden they look at you not as a human being but as something lesser. That sudden shift in their eyes, that hatred, is enough to kill someone. Muslims like me, or perhaps better known as immigrants, refugees or even foreigners, are being slaughtered by these very same forms of communication.
What many people do not seem to know is that much of this hatred between Muslims and non-Muslims has been occurring for the past 16 years, and perhaps even before that. Ever since 9/11, deemed as one of most horrible events in the history of America, there has been hatred. My mother recalls those beginning days in 1996 when we lived in a small apartment complex in Chicago. Initially, people were very accommodating, for example, they would be welcoming towards any questions or confusions. They helped us assimilate into the environment that we were not used to. But as soon as 9/11 occurred, those same people who greeted you so kindly when you went to pick up the mail now turned away at the sight of you.
Sept. 11 and tragedies like it change the perspective of people by the fact that you are suddenly unable to see an individual as an individual and rather simply see the group. All of a sudden people are blaming and pointing fingers when in reality that very person had caused you no harm. Those people that you point fingers at are the same people who you walked to work with, or were your neighbors. The person hasn’t changed, rather the opinion of that person has changed. Rather than seeing that person as an individual human being, you view them as a group that they are not a part of.
All of a sudden that same person, who days ago had a name, is now seemingly not worthy of one. Suddenly as a Muslim American woman my name is defined by an unknown public who has overgeneralized me. Instead, you presume their name by calling them raghead, towelhead, bomber, terrorist cunt, burqa wearing slut and much much more. That same public deems me as a Muslim, as “un-American.” That public now says I need to “get out of your country.” Those very same people are your neighbors, people who you work with and perhaps even go to school with. Many Muslims, along with myself, grew up here and only know America to be their country. If someone suddenly picked you up from your life and put you in the middle of Asia, would you know what to do or how to survive? Probably not, because you’ve only ever lived in America, and you only know how to live here.
Perhaps the worst part of it all is being a Muslim woman. Making the choice to wear the hijab, better known as the headscarf, comes alongside a high price that shouldn’t exist. The hijab is intended to be a symbol of modesty, one that presents the woman as something more than just an object. It is meant to be a symbol of respect, eloquence and dignity. When that same cloth that represents so much is torn off, it is perhaps much the same as demeaning someone’s very existence. Having an unknown person come up behind you and begin to tear apart at the very thing that represents your dignity is an event that changes you.
You no longer feel like a human being but instead as an animal, alone and afraid. I feel that we are treated like the animals kept in pens, prepared for slaughter. Kicking and confining us whenever they deem fit, they may hear our cries and screams, but they do not understand. It’s almost the same as when a cat meows or a dog barks, you know the essence of what they may be trying to say, but there is no exact translation. Perhaps, they think or feel as though I am speaking a different language entirely, and that we may never be capable of communicating.
When it comes to communication, the most common place where it is necessary is at colleges and universities. Often times people assume hate crimes do not occur here because colleges and universities are supposed to have that air of intellectualism. It is assumed a college or university should accept and accommodate cultural diversity. This is not true. Back in 2009, my mother, Amber, had gone to Northern Illinois University to become a nurse to better care for her household. Back then, my mother was someone who very prominently wore the hijab. She wore it with a sense of pride and dignity because it was a representation of inner beauty for her.
During her time at NIU, she faced many struggles not just amongst the dominant white American students but also from professors of the same demographic. The material for the nursing course was difficult enough, but alongside that being pushed back for being “different” was quite difficult and stressful for her. Perhaps the students in that class deemed my mother to be lesser because she wore the hijab. Perhaps she was deemed lesser because she had an accent when she spoke English. Or perhaps it was because she was older than the majority of the group. It could have been that the professor didn’t feel the need to offer any help. It went so far as to pushing her back an entire semester despite her high GPA and good academic standing.*
Ever since then my mom no longer wears her hijab. Being ostracized for being different, forced her to be pushed away from the friends or contacts that she had made in that class. It changed her life entirely for not being able to make the choice for herself, but rather being forced into a choice she had to make in order to better survive.
I have often found myself in similar situations where I am being ostracized and being pushed away from the group. My definition of terrorism stems from this because I feel like dehumanizing human beings and constantly ostracizing people causes them to commit crimes. They are either forced into a choice in order to survive, or they are unable to open up and relate to the stories of other people. The same perhaps goes for those people who commit hate crimes and are filled with rage. Human beings, in general, have the capacity to open up, to feel a sense of humanity and connect with another human being through stories. And really, that’s all that being a Muslim is all about, being a good person. However, it seems that we are slowly losing our sense of “humanity”. As for the future of us as Muslims? What can I say, we are a dying breed and it seems that perhaps one day we will be extinct.
My mom became a licensed registered nurse in 2014.