Just a few days ago, Donald Trump signed a Muslim ban. This ban is supposed to be temporary, 90 days, and for this reason, many people do not believe that this is a big deal. I’ve heard a lot of people say that this is the only way to ensure our country’s safety, that this will likely prevent terrorists from attacking Americans on our soil again.
If you know me at all, you know that my politics are liberal, and that although I have no problem speaking my mind, I generally try to stay out of political discussions in mixed company, as well as in public venues.
I have been emotional about what is going on in our country for quite some time; after hearing of Trump’s executive order to ban Muslim refugees and citizens from Syria, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, and Sudan, my emotions heightened and hit a peak today, while waiting for my weekly cup of comfort (Dunkin Donuts hot tea). This morning I witnessed a conversation that made me so upset and so emotional that I sat in my car and cried before I drove to school.
As I sat in Dunkin Donuts waiting for my hot tea, I heard two men discussing the state of our country and Trump’s 90 day ban on Muslims. Here is what I overheard:
Man 1: So Trump banned Muslims.
Man 2: Good. Maybe now we’ll feel safe.
Man 1: Yeah. You know all those liberals will be crying about racism.
Man 2: Yep, Well, maybe if they knew someone who was killed in 9/11 or something, they would realize it’s what we have to do.
Man 1: Ha. Yeah. Without Muslims, those Americans would have never been killed.
During this conversation, I stayed silent. I did not speak. But again, if you know me, my face cannot lie. One of the men turned around and saw my pursed lips and rolled eyes. The men, acting like I wasn’t even there, turned to each other and nodded, as if to say, “yeah, if only she understood.” I took my tea and left, quiet, but I wanted so badly to speak up. At the time I couldn’t. I was so taken aback and so sad that I froze and ran, knowing that I needed to get myself together so that I could calm down, get to work and teach my classes for the day.
If given another chance, I would have responded. I would have said something, but since I didn’t at the time, I’m going to say now what I should have said then.
“Hey gentlemen, I know I don’t wear a badge around town advertising this, but I did know someone who was killed in 9/11. My father. Muslims did not kill my father. In the days, weeks, months and even years after 9/11, I was angry. I too thought that it was the religion of Islam that drove those men to crash two planes into the World Trade Center; however, I learned, I changed, and I grew. I realized that no, Muslims did not kill my father. But you know what did kill my father? Psychosis killed my father. Ignorance killed my father. Hate, fear, anger and frustration killed my father. Muslims did not. And before you point out that these people were Muslims, let me correct you preemptively and inform you that, really these people were not Muslim. They were cowardly people who hid under the guise of Islam; they were not religious, godly people who worshipped Allah as the Qu’ran teaches.
So there you have it men, Muslims did not kill my father. But I can tell you what Muslims did do. Muslims taught me that my anger and pain was misdirected at a religion and should be directed at a few individuals. Muslims took the time to look into my eyes and step into my shoes. Muslims inspired me to choose Religion as a second major in college. Muslims became my teachers, colleagues and best friends. Muslims opened up their arms to my brother, invited him to Israel, and encouraged him to share his story. Muslims mentored me through my hellish and trying year as an inner city teacher. Muslims shared dinners with me, took walks with me and held me when I cried. Muslims helped me through an awful, abusive relationship and terrible break up, and counseled me when I told them my mom was diagnosed with cancer, again. Muslims told me I was their favorite English teacher; told me that they want to become a teacher because of me, wrote amazing essays on literary masterpieces, sought extra help, extra credit and wished me a “Happy Chanukah” before leaving for December break.
Maybe you will never be lucky enough to be shown love by a diverse group people, and for you I feel sorry, but I have. And once again, before you give me the ‘the Qu’ran is so violent’ argument, let me inform you that Islam is a beautiful, peaceful religion that is not so unlike Judaism and Christianity (all are part of the Abrahamic tradition). Let me offer you my copy, since I’m sure you don’t own one yourself. If you’d like, in the spirit of acceptance and tolerance, I’ll bring it tomorrow to Dunkin Donuts; just please don’t mess with my annotations. So I ask you, next time you want to say something ridiculous like, ‘we can finally feel safe,’ think of me and how unsafe I and many others felt standing next to you and your ignorant discussion. Think of the refugees who are fleeing an actually unsafe environment and being denied access to a country that could help them become the next student, teacher, professor and friend. Enjoy my copy of the Qu’ran, and please, please, please do not mess with my annotations.”