Muslim student embraces identity, shares views on tolerance



Column by Fatimah Shalash. E-mail [email protected].

My heart and mind know hate cannot carry a society. Only love can.

Intense hate and fear is now spreading like wildfire from coast to coast, sparked by plans for a Muslim community center near Ground Zero.

It is burning the fences between neighbors and tearing down the very basic right of people to have freedom of thought and belief.

As a Muslim who proudly wears a hijab, or headcovering, I have never been able to hide my identity to the world. I have never wanted to.

I have never stayed up at night wondering if I will be accepted for who I am because I’m outwardly Muslim, or ever doubted that I was safe walking the streets of my own community.

I have experienced love, kindness and warmth from my fellow neighbors and community growing up in Lexington.

The widely recognized term “Islamopobia” has swept the country and is all over news stations.

It was epitomized by this week’s attack of a Muslim cab driver who suffered life-threatening injuries after a white passenger slashed his neck.

It was a heinous crime where sadly, if it were reversed and a Muslim slashing a white driver’s neck, would have brought far more cries of outrage.

Phobias should be about terrible people and things, such as intoxicated people who attack innocent civilians.

Personally, when I think about a phobia, what comes to mind is a fear of spiders, heights or social situations. Never have I associated phobia with ostracizing a group of 1.2 billion people in its entirety.

Can you imagine the phrase “Christianophobia” or “Bhuddismophobia?” The term attached to an entire religion is absurd.

Phobias are never based on logic but a part of us humans that is provoked by anxiety, misinformation, fear and, in this case, hate. To me, this is the most dangerous foe of all.

History shows what happens when hate, not hope, is in our hearts. And the present news cycle reflects hate crimes against Muslims, including vandalizing mosques, the organization of a “Quran burning day” and urinating on prayer rugs.

Where does it stop? Instead of moving forward with civil rights, are we going to take giant leaps back into segregation and degradation?

I am fighting this feeling of dread that is slowly trying to creep its way in. I do not want to fall victim to the abhorrent actions displayed by groups across the country.

I have to have faith just as I don’t want my religion of Islam to be judged by the extremist few, I cannot judge and condemn my fellow Americans for the same reason.

These are my pleas to you: fight ignorance with knowledge. Fight irrationality with facts. Fight apathy with compassion. Fight hate with love.