Common Word, Common Lord

In the Name of God: The Extremely and Eternally Loving and Caring

Every time there is a spectacular act of violence that garners media attention – whether domestically or internationally – there is widespread anxiety within the American Muslim community. After each incident, I am confident that – in American Muslim households all across the country – people were praying, “Please, dear God, don’t let the attacker be a Muslim.” Certainly, I was saying and feeling this in the hours after the horrific shootings in San Bernardino, California.

And when the perpetrators turn out to be Muslims – like in Paris and now San Bernardino – there is a collective feeling of dread and sighs of, “Here we go again.” This is not because – CNN International anchors’ contentions notwithstanding – we are somehow “responsible” for the acts of the criminals in our midst. We are not.

Rather, the dread comes from the near certain backlash against the Muslim community, because there are many people who cannot separate ordinary, peaceful, patriotic Muslims – the vast, vast, vast majority – from the criminals who commit acts of terror in Islam’s name. And the backlash has certainly come in the wake of the San Bernardino shootings.

What is making it worse this time, however, is Presidential politics, with Donald Trump openly calling for the registration of Muslims and now a “complete shutdown” of Muslim immigration into the United States. The climate against Islam and Muslims, it seems, has not been this hostile since 9/11. And such hostility certainly takes its toll on me, my family, and other American Muslims.

Then, I get this text:

Hi Guys. I just wanted to let you know that we have been thinking about you during these days where…Trump has been spewing such vitriol. Inasmuch it is hard for us to hear that, it would be twice as hard for you. Hopefully the country will wake up and see him for [who] he is. In the meantime please know that my family, as well as many others, stand with you!!!

After expressing my deepest thanks for the support, my friend responded:

I’m serious. I will not be silent about this. Mi familia esta con la tuya (My family is with yours).

My friend used harsher language than this, and I left it out. I did the same with another text I received from another friend:

[I really don’t like] Donald Trump…If [he] gets elected I’m moving to Canada…Export the Mexicans, marginalize the Muslims. Sounds a lot like Hitler to me.

Again, when I expressed my thanks for his support, he responded:

I’m quite sure I speak for all of your friends and colleagues…People are scared and they develop a defensive gang mentality without thinking (or being able to think) beyond base instinct. This is exactly what the terrorists are trying to achieve. Lots of idiots walking around…many of them with guns too, but at the end of the day they are the vast minority. It’s unfortunate that they have mouth pieces like [Sen Ted] Cruz and Trump rattling Sabres.

Soon after the Paris attacks, my wife had an incident where someone yelled at her at a local store. The support she received both personally and on social media was overwhelming. 

These texts and other shows of support come amid a heartening and vociferous condemnation of Trump’s proposals and rhetoric, by politicians, pundits, journalists such as Tom Brokaw, and even American Muslim sports heroes like Muhammad Ali and Kareem Abdul Jabbar. Then there was the post of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, offering his support:

I want to add my voice in support of Muslims in our community and around the world. After the Paris attacks and hate this week, I can only imagine the fear Muslims feel that they will be persecuted for the actions of others. As a Jew, my parents taught me that we must stand up against attacks on all communities. Even if an attack isn’t against you today, in time attacks on freedom for anyone will hurt everyone. If you’re a Muslim in this community, as the leader of Facebook I want you to know that you are always welcome here and that we will fight to protect your rights and create a peaceful and safe environment for you.

All this and more has given me tremendous hope and comfort, and I thank the Lord our God for that. The cacophony of American voices – both Muslim and non-Muslim – standing up to anti-Muslim hate shows me, and the rest of the world, that the vast, vast, vast majority of the American people – my people – are beautiful human beings who reject hatred and bigotry and will stand up to reject anyone who spews it.

And when two of those myriad voices reached out to me, personally, to show me that they supported and stood by me and my family, it meant more than any words can truly express. And it also gave me hope that America, the country I love with all my heart, is still as beautiful as I know her to be.

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