Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Muslim?

The holy month of Ramadan is coming up and I’m nervous.

I’m always nervous when the month rolls around. Nervous that I might faint during a work day at the restaurant from the lack of food and water during the daylight hours. Nervous that I will give into temptation at some point during the month that seemingly lasts forever. But I’m not usually nervous about what people are going to say.

Oh, people do say things, but they are usually out of intrigue or bewilderment. “How can you possibly not eat or drink anything during the day for an entire month?” “Why do you do this?” And the one I love the most, “Can’t you just have a little something to eat?”

I’m nervous though, with the increasing hostility toward Muslims these days that the usual innocent fascination that crops up during my steadfast practice will be replaced this year with judgment and fear.

A culture of fear is being created and directed towards Muslims both nationally and internationally. France’s new law against the practice of wearing the full body veil, well proclaiming to be a law focused on the fundamentals of women’s rights is clearly based around religious intolerance. It is fair to say that a woman should not be forced into wearing such garments, but what about if she is forced not to wear something? Especially if she feels that it gives her a sense of community and lets her express her piety? The notion of making it illegal for a woman to wear something so that she can become “liberated” is paradoxical to its own “reasoning”. The basic principle of choice is being eliminated here and I cannot think of anything more antithetical to women’s rights.

But the cleverly disguised disgust in other parts of the world is far more blatant in our neck of the woods. Just take a look at The Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Forida – a church that is hosting a “Koran Burning” on September 11th this year. According to the Huffington Post, Pastor Terry Jones claims that people have already begun to mail Korans to the church even with the event being posted on Facebook a little over a week ago. The irony here is that these hate-filled people actually have to purchase the Koran to submit it to the Center.

And what of the protests against the plans to build a mosque blocks away from Ground Zero? People who are opposed to the construction say that it would be disrespectful and dishonor the deaths of those involved in the 9-11 attacks to have the Muslim place of worship so close to the site. But were there not also Muslims killed when the towers went down? And how exactly is the construction of a mosque disrespectful to the innocent victims? Only if you equate radicalism with the entire religion does that even begin to make an iota of sense.

Thank God for people like NYC mayor Bloomberg, who can eloquently remind everyone that this country was founded on the idea of religious equality and acceptance for all. I can only hope that the mouths of those protesters closed and their ears opened to hear his moving words and heed the obvious facts. One of the protesters signs read “All I need to know about Islam I learned on 9-11”. If the nation takes this stance of misinformation and drawing conclusions based on the most extreme views then it will be impossible to extinguish the flames of fear and hate against Muslims in our country and Islamophobia will spread like wildfire.

I’ve had to deal with the stigma all my life, even being an extremely moderate Muslim. But not since the actual attacks on the Twin Towers have I felt so alienated. And I am nervous.