Last week, I met Paul Ryan at an apple farm.
My conversation with him was pretty brief:
I was wearing my traditional topi headcap and I have a fair amount of beard on me, so it was rather obvious that I was Muslim. Ryan was shaking hands and taking photos with people, and ahead of me were three college-age girls who chattered excitedly about him. When he saw me, he quickly forgot about the coeds and welcomed me with a smile and a handshake. I told him I was an American Muslim and he asked where my mosque was; I told him I was a member of the Dawoodi Bohra community and our closest masjid was in Willowbrook. He said he had heard of my community and asked where I lived, and I told him Madison – to his credit, his smile didn’t waver I told him I visit Chicago on weekends to visit my parents and then I invited him to visit our mosque, which he appreciated. After a few quick photos, I wished him the best of luck with his campaign.
As I note in my blog post at Patheos, I wanted Representative Ryan’s memory of our encounter to be positive, because like it or not, in that moment I didn’t just represent myself, but my Bohra community, the Muslim American community as a whole, and in fact probably Muslims and Islam in general.
Check out my full writeup for more details and photos, and also my own regrets about not raising certain issues, such as the NYPD spying controversy and the Obama Administration’s drone policy, with him. These were absent during the VP debate a few days later, and even though I support Barack Obama, I think that exerting some pressure on these fronts via Ryan would have been a positive thing, as these are debates on issues we need to have.
My point in writing this up is basically to exhort my fellow Muslim Americans to engage the political process and be prepared (more so than I was). That’s the only real way we can make any kind of difference and have any influence at all.
Photos by Zainab Zafar of Maha Designs