I smell the soft ginger saffron scent wafting from my candle in a safe home, free of fear, while Palestinian children and families take cover under rubble, gasping for relief from toxic gas, wondering when the next missile will strike. Their homes stood standing just 8 days ago as they prayed in Masjid Al-Aqsa, on one of the holiest nights of Ramadan when the atrocities began (this year). Israel strong-arms and rains missiles on civilian homes in Gaza, year after year, killing none other than children and families, only for the worlds’ leaders to watch silently with zero moral grounding to call out wrong for wrong, because its not good for business, status, and politics. Egregious and shameless war crimes continue as I type this but I know I must write.
I was a senior in High School when Gaza was under attack in 2009. I remember sitting in my AP Government class, feeling the rage come over my face when my teacher asked us to write about the benefits of democracy and relate it to current events. His privilege, detachment, and utter lack of concern for the loss of Palestinian life was enraging but not surprising. He came over and noticed I wasn’t well and asked if I needed to see my counselor. I said no and explained what was upsetting me. He offered no consolation and instead, provided a nicely packaged neutral diplomatic response. I couldn’t believe we were expected to be neutral on a subject such as the Palestinian struggle in a class that touted its focus on human rights and Americas’ gift of democracy to the world. My anger was not packaged properly for him and therefore, it was dismissed. By the following week, it seemed as though I should have been able to do my assignment as expected since my trauma after seeing Palestinian children being shot at should have an expiration date.
While U.S. politicians on the left will gladly stand for dignity, equality, and all levels of racial justice and LGBTQ rights, they selectively remain callous and indifferent towards Palestinians (perhaps because every missile that strikes Palestinian women and children is made in the U.S., killing 64 children and 38 women in just the last week!). It feels cheap and performative based on wherever the money pours in from, as opposed to standing for justice and an honest stance for human rights. Yet again, I feel the deafening silence from high school friends, networks, and groups I am a part of who turn a blind eye to the Palestinian struggle for freedom because of gaslighting from years of inaccurate reporting on this topic. But I cannot neglect those who are now speaking up and choosing to be on the side of justice. I’ve personally reached out to bloggers, business owners, writers, and influencers I admire who have been vocal on their platforms to recognize and commend their solidarity.
I recently began a geography lesson with my 4 year old daughter by picking up several books with colourful maps and continent studies from our library. Not a single world atlas book I picked up had any image or reference to Makka or any of the Islamic Holy sites (I mean, we’re only 1.8 billion people and 24% of the world population). Needless to say, Palestine was also nowhere to be found. I immediately drafted messages to the publishers with serious concerns about their total neglect of the Muslim // Islamic narrative! This is how racism, ignorance, and a collective consciousness against an entire group of people begins to grow among children. When families pick up books and only see images that reflect their narrative, “the other” is subconsciously demoted as less than. And that’s why anyone who is BPOC has to do the exhaustive work of explaining their humanity and existence. Hats off to colonialism and imperialism, which Cathy Park Hong points out brilliantly in her book, Minor Feelings.
I took the good from the Atlas books and made a quick note in my planner to create my own map for my daughter. Even when I purchase geography books, I’ll be going in with a permanent marker to add in all the missing components that seem to be a deliberate removal of the Muslim story within books and media. I want her to see herself in books, which is not something I saw as a child. There were never any books about Muslims at the Scholastic book fair I’d go to in 2nd grade or any visits from Muslim authors or leaders.
When I was reading Jane Eyre last December, I wished within myself to be able to write a book one day with incredible prose, focus, and beauty. I quickly snapped out of the thought as I realized, “Oh wait, I’m brown and I have so many levels of explaining to do about my personhood and so much micro trauma to write about .. how could I possibly just write a story that isn’t related to minority topics!” This thought weighed on be me heavily and continues to push upon my shoulders. I wanted to sit down tonight to write just about my life, motherhood, marriage, nature, homeschooling, adventures but there are constant pain points as a brown person and a Muslim woman that require one to speak and write about identity, race, and painful struggles for existence for the Muslim community and communities of colour.
We don’t have the privilege to simply write.
At the same time, I pray that Allah (swa) sees me as someone who stood for justice at a time when the world was silent. I too have privileges that many around the world do not have, and I am waking up to the reality that my voice should be used to lift the curtain from oppression that is funded by my U.S. tax dollars. I will be questioned by Allah with how I used the privileges He blessed me with.
Writing about my own life can wait for just a while.