I’ve been trying to write this post for a good few months now; for some reason the words just never seem right. Every time I go to share it, the state of the world has changed once more.
The past few months I’ve been walking around with a knot in my chest. I’ve had this continuous nagging feeling that everything isn’t quite ok. I leave the house with a heavy heart, my soul on edge.
The world feels like it is breaking. A disease has taken over. A disease which no longer allows human beings to know right from wrong anymore, sanity from insanity, humanity from inhumanity. An illness which allows us to watch as fellow human souls are torn apart. An illness, that for some, blurs these lines and blinds them from their choices. Truth be told, I’ve never felt so scared about the state of our glorious home.
Alhamdulillah, I’ve been wearing a head scarf for 6 years now and never in that time, nor in the years before where I openly wore my faith on my sleeves, have I even merely felt that I was being mis-judged for my beliefs. I’ve walked out of the house day after day, immensely proud to be presenting myself as a believer to the world. I’ve been blessed in that I have had nothing but compliments on my head dress, when people ask questions about it they have only been positive and genuine.
I’ve grown up in a school where I was one of three South Asians in my year, surrounded by friends of the Christian, or no faith and not once have I ever felt out of place. I’ve felt nothing but loved and at home – rightly so.
However, I now find myself thinking twice, feeling self conscious – and I would go so far as to say scared, when I cross into a suburbian area of the country for a meeting, or enter a fine dining restaurant where non white people are scarcely seen. More recently, particularly since the outcome of the EU referendum in the UK, this has at times even extended to leaving the house alone. To thinking twice about who is on the other side of the street before I cross, worrying about getting onto public transport. A feeling that perhaps now I do stick out like a sore thumb, that there are ignorant people out there that will judge me according to their mindless, ignorant beliefs. That I may be attacked for choosing to be a part of a community of the most loving and peaceful individuals. An alien feeling that I’ve never felt before and it feels so, so utterly wrong.
I find myself crying at the state of this country, my country, when I hear stories about fellow sisters being treated unjustly due to the mere fact they are brave enough to hold their head high and walk out in their veil. I cry at stories of hate crimes spewed out onto non-Caucasian individuals. And I cry at the untold stories which the media will undoubtedly bury deep in their biased archives.
I feel nauseated when I see social media dripping with hate. Facebook pages of acquaintances laced in these lies and ignorant accounts of reality. I now find my “friends” sharing sympathetic posts about terrorist attacks in Western countries, but passing off the worst accounts of terrorism in less developed countries as unfortunate, not even giving them a second thought. In my line of work, I deal with British people from all walks of life, worried that there will be more than the one individual who shares countless hate posts against Muslims from the Britain First page.
I however realised this feeling of terror, the feeling of being unsafe, the fleeting moment of uncertainty hasn’t actually stemmed from the general public that I meet on a daily basis. Alhamdulillah people have to this day been nothing but kind and respectful of my choices. I still venture out and no one looks twice at me for covering, except to admire the colour of my scarf, an accessory or how I have it wrapped. So why am I here feeling so on edge to journey out? I came to the conclusion that this feeling I now have seems to have come about from the media and the messages it is sending out to me. There is no denying that hate crimes have increased, but the constant negative stories and the bile on social media in many a way is igniting not only hatred from the ignorant, but also fear from the innocents. A message is slowly being imprinted in my mind whereby I feel as soon I leave the house there is a good chance that I will be attacked for my beliefs.
I don’t for a second believe that is true. I refuse to believe that is true.
I believe the human race isn’t as horrific as the media makes out, whether that be mass media, local media or social media.I know this because I also find myself brought to tears through stories of those who stand up for innocents, be that on the tubes, in supermarkets or on buses. Of faith groups that open the doors of their places of worship for those that have been victims to natural disasters. Of those who openly state their stance on bigoted politicians of the world. Of my colleagues that check up on me when I venture into London to see if I’m ok. Of those non-muslim individuals that make it their place to stand up and demand justice. Of the lady in Marks and Spencers who stopped me to ask where my headband was from so she could gift something similar to her Muslim neighbour. Of the shop assistants who still refer to me as “love” or “sweetheart” despite the fact I have a piece of cloth over my hair. Of friends who don’t see a situation I may feel as a threat in the same way due to how inclusive they think the world should be.
No; people are wonderful on the most part. Choosing to believe they are is the most important step I think in staying hopeful and positive about the changes we can make.
So I am choosing not to delve into these social posts anymore, or read into news stories about hate crimes. Call me ignorant, but it does nothing to help me become stronger. The more I look at these stories, every day holding my breath as I await what horrors the media will spit out, what crimes those corrupted and radicalised groups may commit next, the more I may feel scared of so openly showcasing my faith.
Real people aren’t so inhumane as to call out the name of my Lord, one who unequivocally denounces murder of innocents, and blow up another for the mere fact that they happen to live in a country whose government has chosen to go to war. Real people aren’t those that can set fire to someone who happens to be of a faith whose beliefs you do not agree with. Real people do exist, just make sure you’re looking in the right place for them. They’re not often the ones that have time or energy to continually be on social media arguing with the monsters – they’re out saving the world from them through these small acts of kindness.
Yes, people will judge me. They always have and always will – perhaps my self-assurance in my faith has made me oblivious to it in the past. But does judging always have to be a malicious act? People will judge not only ignorantly, but people will also judge each other in a positive way. The actions of a believing, true Muslim can only shine light into the darkness that seems to be surrounding us. Upon leaving my old job, my employer left me with the most touching and heart-warming thought. She told me that in the darkest room, I wasn’t the one complaining about the darkness, but I was the one holding the candle.
If we can all leave this impression on those around us, I truly believe this ignorance one day will have to die away. So let’s all be that candle. A smile, a good deed, this is how we can slowly heal the world. This is how we can stand proud about who we are.
So why should any of us be ashamed? Why should we try to make ourselves invisible? I want to stand out, loud and proud for who I am. Only a positive show of what I am and what I believe can start to change ignorant minds. If they’re going to call me out for who I am, let it be for the right reasons.
Spread love, fear not those that try to oppress you, spread love anyway. Only love can heal the world.
“..If Allah willed, He would have made you one nation, but that (He) may test you in what He has given you; so strive as in a race in good deeds. The return of you (all) is to Allah; then He will inform you about that in which you used to differ..” – Quran, [5:48]
I pray that Allah swt keeps us all safe from oppressors and helps all those who are being oppressed. May He keep us all strong and allow us to come together to lovingly change this world for the better.
All good in this post is from Allah swt only, and any wrong is from myself.