Yasmina Reality

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By on April 19, 2013 in Uncategorized

Chicago Tribune article- Muslims guard against backlash

In the early part of my marriage, I was determined to get in as much travelling as I could muster before being “tied down” with those little people.  You know who I’m talking about, right?  The offspring that God blesses people with.  (I am one of the blessed.  I am the mother of two.)  On my bucket list of places to travel to was the entire east coast.  So during leaf-peeping season, my husband and I hitched our 1970’s pop-up camper to the car— and set off out east- to peep at the changing autumn leaves and visit historic sites in our great country.  We camped on a pristine lake on Cape Cod; visited Yale and bought sweatshirts; got as close to the Kennedy Compound on Hyannis Port as we could- (I still have the grainy pictures that show nothing to prove it;) we stayed at a charming Bed & Breakfast in Newport, Rhode Island, toured the historic Breakers mansions, and ate fresh caught fish at Christie’s.  We camped on Martha’s Vineyard where our campsite was overrun by a family of skunks; and we bicycled through Nantucket.  We stood at Plymouth Rock.  (Confession:  I expected a boulder.  It’s a tiny rock.  Surprised I was- but happy to say I stood where the pilgrims landed.)  We eventually made our way to Boston where we hunkered down for a few days because there is so much to see.

leaf peeping in Boston

leaf peeping in Boston

I remember my visit to Boston in bursts of memories:  running into a guy dressed as Benjamin Franklin outside of Cheers.  (Picture this if you will:  You’re in Boston; you step out onto the road; it’s drizzling outside; and Ben Franklin walks up to you and starts up a conversation.  It just seemed really normal.  And we just rolled with it.)  We walked the Freedom Trail; and ate lobster at The Union Oyster House, “the oldest restaurant in Boston and the oldest restaurant in continuous service in the U.S. — the doors have always been open to diners since 1826.”  We took a sight-seeing tour on Boston Harbor where a retired Boston cop told us every tid bit of history of the area (the stuff in the books and the stuff from the beat.)  His BAHstin accent was AHsome and more than a decade later- I still remember this man fondly.  How he was so connected to his city like my husband and I felt about our own city of Chicago.  The biggest impression Boston left on me outside the history and accents; the fish and Ben Franklin; was the genuine hospitality of Bostonians.  Their friendliness has always stayed with me.

Boston Harbor

Boston Harbor

As a volunteer for the #MyJihad campaign, I am essentially standing up to Islamophobia.  I am standing up to Muslim extremists and anti-Muslim extremists alike.  Why would I do such a thing?  I do it because Islam is my faith.  Islam is a GOOD faith that teaches values I instill in my children like charity, generosity (even if it’s a smile or a greeting,) steadfastness, prayer, equality, respect, modesty, truthfullness, community.  It’s not always easy volunteering for the #MyJihad campaign.  I’ve had my share of haters and bigots say some pretty nasty things to me.  But the experience only strengthens my faith and my resolve to be who I am.

Like most Americans, the Boston Marathon bombing left me heartbroken.  I’ve never run a marathon.  I don’t think I have what it takes quite frankly.  (I’m more of a bicyclist actually!) And I am in awe of runners in general- let alone marathon runners.  Having a senseless act of violence shatter lives at such a positive event is simply mind-boggling. People lost limbs, for God’s sake.  People lost their lives- like Martin.  He was just a young boy.

As a mother, a citizen, a human being; I’m deeply saddened by the bombing.

As the days unfolded after the event, speculation took place in the media and in social media.  They accused a Saudi national (didn’t he turn out to be an innocent child?) of being the bomber.  The Islamophobes on Twitter immediately tweeted their disgust at this Saudi bomber.  Oops- then it was retracted.  Bloggers posted stories asking, “What if they are Muslim?”

Today it was revealed the bombers were two brothers originally from Chechnya and they identified as Muslim.  Did I cringe?  Yeah.  I admit it.  I cringed.  And then I googled Chechnya.  And Chechnya Muslims.  And Chechnya history.  I do not know much at all about this region except to know they have gone through some tough times in recent history.  I still do not know much about it.  But I do know that as a #MyJihad activist, I am sensitive to the interpretation of the word jihad and it’s mis-representation of being defined as ‘holy war.’

A professor on a local news station came on and started talking about how this could be bigger than two boys from Boston.  They are from Chechnya and there could be ties to Al-Qaeda. The word ‘jihadist’ was thrown around and ‘jihad’ and I cringed some more.  All of these connections being made haphazardly.  Assumptions.    Meanwhile, the Islamophobes on Twitter were having a field day.  One regular who likes to troll the #MyJihad hash tag tweeted as if she was announcing that she won the lottery: “The bombers are Muslim!  From Chechnya!”  Does she care about the victims?  Or simply about validating her outlook on life that Muslims are evil and kill.

The Muslim community condemns all senseless acts of violence and Ahmed Rehab of CAIR-Chicago summed it up best at an interfaith Press Conference held earlier today when he said, “Our focus is primarily on the victims. We don’t want to be drawn into defending ourselves.”

I stand by him and all people of faith in saying, “Yes.  I will not be drawn into defending myself.”

The acts of the Boston bombers are ones of cowardice, criminality and senselessness.  EVERYTHING that Islam is against.

The haters will try to ride this wave as far as they can take it to keep fears stoked and keep the Islamophobia industry humming along.

For me?  I am shaken by the events of Boston, but my faith is unshaken.  I am closer to my faith as a result of this latest event.  I turn to God and ask him for patience for the victims and families.  I ask God to heal their wounds, both emotional and physical.  I ask Him to give Americans the patience to see through the false facts and see reality for what it is.  And I ask God for patience and strength for the Muslim community as they may deal with backlash in the days and weeks ahead.  Backlash for a crime that has nothing to do with Islam.  A crime that Muslims unequivocally condemn.

Great support comes from our non-Muslim friends and neighbors who stand with us, side-by-side, in condemnation of violence and in our struggle for peace and understanding.  To those I’ve personally been in contact with and those that stand by our community through thick and thin, I say, “Thank you. We share common humanity and we need each other.  Thank you, friends.”






About the Author

About the Author: I'm a Writer and Muslim Activist. I'm also a Board Member of the #MyJihad Public Education Campaign. Follow my blog at yasminareality.com or follow me on Twitter: @yasmina_reality. I'm also now on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/YasminaReality Peace! .

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