I recently spent a week in the beautiful state of South Carolina. Being a closeted southern belle and having an illusionary love affair with Country musician, Sam Hunt, being in the south felt like home. Until I mingled with a handful of locals who were quick to make me feel like an outsider.
As an American Muslim, post 9/11, I have been in countless situations that tested my identity. Whether as an American or as a Muslim, I have been insulted, detained and physically harassed because I was not deemed “American” enough.
My mother and I took a tour of Charleston, which included a visit to the historical Boone Hall Plantation. Many know this site as the location for the Nicholas Sparks movie, The Notebook. I, however, was excited to see the venue where Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds got married. In addition, I was eager to learn about the Gullah culture and experience a time lapse into the southern life of early American history.
A passenger, let’s call her Speculative Suzie, asked me where I was from. I proudly replied, “Cincinnati, Ohio!” Suzie said she wasfrom Detroit, Michigan. She responded, “Detroit has the largest Muslim population in the country.”
I nodded my head and said, “Yes, it is …” She immediately asked me how I knew about the Muslim citizens and sadly, her eyes were glazed with suspicion. I could have worn my Muslim pride badge and declared my faith, but her husband was wearing a confederate flag label pin on his camouflage baseball hat. Furthermore, her tone was laced with fear. I too became a bit fearful, as I did not know where this conversation would take us.
After the lunch tour, we were allowed to browse downtown before embarking on the second leg of the tour. After my mother and I enjoyed the city walk, we came back to the tour bus and upon entering, the husband of Speculative Suzie, asked me for my papers. I stopped dead in my tracks and I felt my heart drop to my stomach. I smiled and said, “Sweetheart, I’ll show you my papers if you show me yours.” I winked and walked back to my seat, proud of myself for controlling my emotions.
Certainly, when we have public figures such as GOP front-runner, Donald Trump, instigating this level of racism, it is more imperative to rise above the hatred. When someone loads the cannon with zealotry, the fire shot inflames hateful dogma to the masses. It gives people the mouthpiece to segregate and harass others.
While we cannot singlehandedly blame Trump for the influx of Islamophobia or anti-Mexican rhetoric just because he reflects the deep-rooted racist and Islamophobic sects of America, we can however, stop giving him a stage to entice public opinion. The dangerous repercussion of Trump’s racist platform is chilling. Incidents of shootings, beatings, arson and vandalism on Mosques and against identifiable Muslim citizens are on the rise.
All of us have a defense mechanism when we are in a situation of fear. Sure, I could have reacted to his hostility with an insult. But if we react to fear, out of fear, we are only spinning the wheel of a low vibrational energy. Instead, elevate your frequency and radiate compassion. Have compassion for people who sincerely do not know anything about Islam, or about the radical extremists who have hijacked the religion.