From the moment I learned of the attacks around the world and turned on the TV to learn more, one thought kept going through my head “I hope the attackers weren’t Muslim.” Horrible right? I was travelling in Switzerland and close to the end of my second week in Europe when news of the attack broke out. In the next few days I was fixated to the news to learn more about the attackers.
On the outside it appears that I am fairly removed from the effects of the terrorist attacks, having grown up in Toronto, living in NYC and surrounded by much tolerance and love throughout my life. Though there is something that changes every time a terrorist attack occurs and it is identified that the attacker is Muslim. Myself, and Muslims everywhere, are put under the microscope and categorized in these broad categories. We’re told we are something we are not. We feel distant in these places we call home, in these modern countries we were born in. We feel different from our friends and the people we know. And what’s worst? We feel scared. We are scared that individuals think that a terrorists actions reflect on us as people, that people in our communities start looking down on us and that we can no longer go to sacred places like mosques without fearing for our lives.
And while I appear to be removed from each attack, I am not. No Muslim is removed from the attacks. We are deeply shattered by the actions of individuals who follow our non-violent beliefs, a religion that is followed by more than 25% of the world’s population. We are deeply scarred by the actions and accusations by those in our communities and the unwarranted attacks, statements and bigotry that we see. When looking at my Facebook feed I am appalled at the level of racism and anger towards my religion that leaves me feeling frustrated and yet, warmed at the openness and compassion of friends who stand up to this intolerance. My Facebook feed has become the place I dread looking at but can’t avoid.
A few days before I left Switzerland I told my brother I hadn’t seen or felt any unbalance in the areas I was travelling after the attacks. It was the day I left Switzerland to return home that I started to be reminded what life as a Muslim meant in today’s terror. I was held back three times while en route to my flight for ‘random’ searches. My friend and co-worker that was with me, who is not of a Muslim background, had the exact same travel route as myself and was not held back once. What might have been a coincidence was less coincidental when realizing I was the only identifiable Muslim on the flight. I was first held back when trying to drop-off my baggage and asked extra questions, I was then escorted away when trying to board my flight to verify that the attendants who had cleared me upon check-in had run a background check and I was then put into an extra security check before being allowed to board. There were a few other people held back at the last security check which made me feel more comfortable but when taken to the blocked off area I realized that they weren’t making anyone else take off their shoes, take of layers of clothing and have intimate areas examined. I made light of the situation by laughing with the attendees and discussing the souvenirs I bought as they made me empty every single item I had in my bags. When they brought a binder over titled “Threat Control” and listed my name, passport number and other description I was told it was formality. I didn’t see them do that for anyone else.
I wasn’t outraged at the airport. In fact, I wasn’t even fazed. As I was one of the last to board the plane, I found my friend and expressed sympathy for having to travel with Muslims. This is our life. This is just a small taste of what we are more likely to experience in times of terror and fear.
So while I feel for the victims and their families that have been subject to senseless violence, I also feel for Muslims around the world that are pushed into the feelings of self-guilt and self-hate. That we silently accept the extra scrutiny and security checks as if they are apart of life.
And though I know there are greater issues that demand attention right now, I want to encourage people to remind themselves that the actions of a few should not reflect the actions of many. To know that we all suffer together, and the greatest damage we can do is point fingers at each other while we pass blame. This is the time in which we need to stand together, to uphold the inclusivity our countries have proudly proclaimed and to protect each other. If we don’t, then it saddens me to say that our society is moving backwards and repeating unwanted history.
I know there are Muslims out there with stories of how they have been personally attacked and hurt. Stories that are much more grave than mine. I feel like I haven’t heard that protagonist version much before and that we, as a community of the same culture, need to be more vocal about the underlying racism and effects of terror on us. Together, we need to be #silentnomore.