I’m not guaranteed Ramadan next year – with Islamophobia increasing, I’m not even guaranteed tomorrow.
By Hafsa Quraishi
TW//Violence and murder.
Yesterday, I arrived at my local mosque while ‘intermission’ was going on, during which prayer is paused to give people a break between the long, nightly supplication. It’s the final ten days of Ramadan, a time when attendance at mosques are especially high because of the holiness encompassing these last few days.
Though it was late in the evening, the mosque was boisterous with activity – kids were running around, yelling and chasing each other; a group of women were seated in a circle, likely discussing community events and the older teens were playing basketball in the court my brother lovingly built with money he fundraised. Fairy lights ran around the perimeter of the building twinkling blues and greens. It was quite a sight to see.
Yet, all I could think of was how these children and adults that surrounded me might not be here the following night.
I spent the last few weeks fasting, praying and trying to be my best self. I had a number of goals I wanted to accomplish this year – attend the nightly prayer, taraweeh, every night, read the entire Qur’an and be kinder to others. My human nature kept me from meeting most of these goals, and while that frustrated me, I kept reminding myself that I can always try to accomplish them next year – but the reality is, I’m not guaranteed Ramadan next year – with Islamophobia increasing, I’m not even guaranteed tomorrow.
Sunday morning, Nabra Hassanen, a visibly Muslim girl, was murdered in cold blood in Virginia. She was walking back to the mosque from IHOP where she ate suhoor with a group of friends, a common occurrence during Ramadan. On their way, the group of teenagers were confronted by a motorist, they ran to escape him but Nabra was caught by the man and stuffed into his car. After abducting her, the man beat her to death with a bat and disposed of her body in a pond.
if you believe muslim women face less violence in the west, youve been blinded. nabra, 17, murdered with baseball bat last night in virginia pic.twitter.com/zlZJclJ3qT
— xoamani (@xoamani) June 19, 2017
She was 17-years-old. She had barely begun life and it was snatched from her by a man who decided he wanted to play God. Her identity and her existence was a threat to him. He ruined lives for what I can only imagine was his sick way of ‘purifying’ the world. Nabra began the day in an act of worship and was left for dead moments later.
The same evening in North London, a middle-aged white male drove his van into a group of Muslims who had finished praying at Finsbury Park Mosque, resulting in one fatality and 10 injured. This man’s animosity towards a group of people literally drove his actions to the point where he committed actual murder. Still, those in charge of the mosque he targeted, prevented people from harming him in the name of being compassionate.
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) June 19, 2017
With hate crimes like these occurring at such a frequent rate that I have to use the time of day instead of separate dates in order to specify the attacks, it’s a wonder my hope for a better tomorrow remains. But compassion shown by victims in times like these renews my faith in humanity.
I suffer from anxiety, and the paranoia that accompanies it isn’t pleasant – for the past few years I have become more and more suspicious of my surroundings – it’s gotten to the point where I emotionally prepare myself for what it would be like to be shot or stabbed. I stand in prayer wondering what I would do if a shooter opened fire in the middle of the musallah. But in the past six months alone, it has become less of a fear of mine, and more of an inevitable occurrence waiting to happen.
I feel as if I am just waiting until the moment my appearance and existence pisses someone off so much, they feel the need to rid the world of me. The places I once felt safest are now places I feel afraid every second I’m there – visibly Muslim, exposed to the xenophobes of the world. But that’s not how I want to live my life.
I want to be someone who stands up to bigotry. I want to be the feminist hero that didn’t back down when confronted with an ignorant man yelling at her because of the head scarf she’s wearing and what it entails. But how can I stand up to a gun, a bat, or his bare hands? The only weapon I have is the faith on top of my head. Am I the bigger person if I walk away – or am I an enabler? Dying a martyr might seem romantic, but romance is overrated. I’d rather be alive.
Depending on my perspective, my faith can be like the hijab on my head – it can protect me from the rain or be used to strangle me. I’ve decided to let it protect me, and with that, love wins.
Author Bio: Hafsa Quraishi is a Muslim American writer, artist and activist. She currently interns at the Florida chapter of Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a nonprofit civil rights organization. Hafsa also leads the divestment effort on her campus which encourages her university to stop funding the private prison and fossil fuel industries. She aspires to be a foreign correspondent for a major news network. Follow her on Twitter for some good times.