I was going to write a blog post about how as a Muslim, I try my best to counter all the negative images in the media by trying to uphold an example of what Islam really teaches us to be.

I was going to talk about how hard it’s been growing up. How at first I was called the n-word because back then the bigots didn’t even know where Pakistan was, and now that they do, and they’ve heard of Islam because of some murderous thugs, things are even worse.

I was going to lament about how unfair it is that people take what some bad people do and say it’s because of the religion.

I was going to say how useless it is to try and argue with people that there’s a HUGE double standard!

To try to explain that the behaviour of these radicals has nothing to do with Islam in the same way that Hitler had nothing to do with Christianity.

But you can’t tell them that because people don’t know enough about Islam to realize that and everyone knows enough about Christianity to know that Hitler’s actions don’t represent Christian dogma and you can’t blame the Christian religion for what he did.

It’s all a big farce.

People will continue to malign Allah, and the Quran and His Messenger Muhammad (peace be upon him). They will continue to think that it MUST be the religion! And I’ll continue to hear them say things like, ‘Look at all those Muslim countries! The one thing they have in common is that they’re a bunch of lunatics!’ Without realizing the toll that colonialism has taken on them.

And that’s because they come from a white culture that has not been ‘conquered’ (unless they’re Irish or Scottish or whatever) but rather is used to being the conquerors.

Being conquered and colonized does something to people’s heads. Just ask the native Americans and the African Americans. They’ve both been free of shackles for a LONG time, but they still have tons of social problems. Muslim lands have only been free of their colonial masters for what? One or two generations?

And I was going to talk about a media seminar I took a long time ago where the Muslim film producer got up and asked us what we knew about Columbia.


Just cocaine, and drug lords and kidnappings and murder and FARC rebels and stuff.

And then he talked about some of the good things that were happening in that country and how scientists from Columbia had developed a cure for malaria and then he asked us if we’d ever heard of any of that good stuff.

We all shook our heads.

“That’s because you weren’t paying attention.” he said. “When something doesn’t directly affect you, how closely do you monitor it?

“It’s the same way with most people in the west, and Islam. All they know about us is what they’ve seen in the media.”

And the scope of what I’ve always been up against really hit me full force, right in that moment with a big WHUMP! Like a pillow, stuffed with bricks, to the face.

Why should people in the west believe the protests of people like me? Of course we’d defend our faith. We believe in it. It’s totally predictable, and our words are totally dismissable as inconsequential.

Instead they will continue to believe the evidence of their own eyes, thousands of people around the world, with dark skin, jumping up and down, screaming profanities at America, and in some cases even killing–over a stupid little movie???

Intellectually people know that you cannot tar everyone with the same brush. That’s prejudice.

They know that no group is a monolith, that there are good Muslims and bad Muslims, good Christians and bad Christians, good Jews and bad Jews.

Labels don’t matter–ultimately actions do and you have to treat people as individuals.

People know that intellectually. They know they shouldn’t ‘pre-judge’. That they should give each person a chance to prove that they’re good or bad, based on the merit of their words and deeds–not based on the colour of their skin, or their faith or the way that they dress.

And yet people have a visceral reaction to others–especially foreigners.

And you know what, there’s not much point in fighting that.

I was reading Sheema Khan’s latest article in the Gobe & Mail http://www.theglobeandmail.com/commentary/muslim-men-stop-blaming-women/article4533925/ called Muslim Men Stop Blaming Women, and it’s about as feminist as you can get, and totally fine Islamically! And yet in the comment section some bozo basically tells her that ‘We won’t take you seriously till you stop wearing that scarf on your head.” And others AGREED!!!

Saying that the scarf is a symbol of men’s oppression of women!


Maybe in some countries and in some situations where the men make their womenfolk wear it, but in my case I DEFIED my father when I started wearing  hijab!!! And MOST women in western countries wear it by CHOICE!

I’ve never worn it because any man told me to. I’ve always worn it because in the Quran, God tells me to.

And there came that pillow with the bricks in it again! WHUMP! Right in the face!

And I thought wow!

Is that what people are really thinking when they see me?

That I’m some stupid oppressed woman because I wear a cloth on my head?!

Well I’m sure glad I didn’t really know that till now. I wonder if I could have learned to face them as a storyteller if I had.

What I’d like to tell every bigot who believesthat I’m being oppressed (despite my repeated assurances that I’m not) just because I cover my body so that only my face and hands show is this: “God is not oppressing me, neither is any man. Telling me to take it off IS OPPRESSING ME! But I won’t let you. I will wear what I want and I don’t care if you don’t take me SERIOUSLY!

“This is who I am and if you don’t like it, TOUGH!”

Your loss.

Because I’m a very good storyteller, masha Allah, and your life could very well be the poorer for not experiencing my stories.

That’s what I’d tell them, if they were listening. But they aren’t. So I can’t.

Oh well.

Tonight I got to meet Sheema for the very first time!

Because I went to a fundraising dinner for an organization that astonishes me.

Let’s face it. Muslims aren’t exactly known for being visionary. At least not these days, but there’s this fantastic organization called The Olive Tree Foundation which takes donations and instead of building yet another masjid, actually invests in community projects that will help both Muslims and Canadians and Canada in the long run.  http://www.olivetreefoundation.ca/

They had a project run in conjunction with the Big Brothers and Big Sisters program in Toronto to help mentor Somali kids and prevent them from dropping out of school. They ran a project about discovering the historical roots of the first mosque in Toronto! And tonight, at their Gala banquet, they honoured the recipients of their scholarship and bursary programs.

Sheema gave the keynote address and she was wonderful!

I asked her how she dealt with all the nitwit bigots that attacked any article she wrote, and she said she simply ignored them.

I particularly asked her about the guy who’d said he wouldn’t take her seriously till she took that thing off her head and she just grinned and said something like ‘I don’t care. This is me.’

And I thought, ‘Of course!’ That’s how I am too. That’s how you have to be.

And then all the stuff I was going to write about changing the image of Islam and Muslims in the world just felt so silly because honestly who really cares?

And one other thing that Sheema said was that 99% of the emails she received were positive and downright nice! (I’m paraphrasing.)

So why should the haters matter?

And this time the pillow was full of feathers when it went WHUMP! And hit me in the face, because I realized that the same thing is true for me.

Ninety-nine percent of the people I deal with are nice and positive and see past our differences, and they value the stories I have to tell.

And darn it, don’t I do the same? Don’t I enjoy other cultural stories? Don’t I give other people the benefit of the doubt? And don’t I make friends with all kinds of people irrespective of our racial, cultural, religious and whatever differences???

So the world really isn’t such a bad place after all.

And the cringe-worthy embarrassment I feel over the behaviour of some violent Muslims will pass. And I remind myself that I’m not responsible for their actions and they’re not responsible for mine. And hopefully things will settle down.

We can never bring the victims back to life, but we can pray that God will bring us all justice in the end.

And open our eyes to learn lessons from the tragedies so that this type of behaviour is not repeated.