By Sumayya Tobah, Editor
I can’t help but think I’ve been a little unfair.
The purpose of the BossMuslimah blog is to empower young Muslim women by writing about things we have in common, and creating a space for dialogue, inclusion and ultimately, growth. In our opening post, we discussed how important it was to celebrate the women in our lives, and we continue to stand by this entirely.
I would just like to make a small addition. A post-script, if you will.
In an age where the media is working tirelessly to vilify and demonize our Muslim fathers and brothers, I wanted to pen a short letter of appreciation — a love letter.
My dear Muslim brothers, I feel for you.
I was taught very early in life what the difference is between a boy and a man. I legitimately thought my father was a superhero until I was maybe ten or eleven. He is generous with his knowledge, a commanding moral force and never wavers from his responsibility. Whenever I would creep around my parent’s closets looking for Eid gifts, I would secretly sift around for a cape.
But I soon learned that these qualities, as admirable as they were, weren’t unique to my father. I see them in my grandfather, who always takes the time to answer our questions with kindness, no matter how basic. I see them in my brother, who puts so much emphasis on doing things as a family and taking the time to make my mother smile.
Growing up, these were the men in my life.
When I started my undergraduate degree, I noticed these qualities in many of the brothers on campus. They were a nation; the kind of loyalty I wish I saw in my sisters. And the best ones always looked out for us. When I was verbally assaulted by a stranger after the Paris attacks, one of my brothers walked me to campus police. And when I was broken over the verdict (or lack thereof) in the Mike Brown case, it was one of the brothers who made me laugh.
Not only do these men — not boys — have to deal with everyday stresses like grades and girls (ladies, we can be stressful), but they have to deal with the unprovoked political wrath that is today’s attitude towards the Muslim Man.
At the age of 18, these men — not boys — had to navigate the most tumultuous period of a person’s life under a white hot magnifying glass. With every headline, we saw swarms of journalists and cameramen on our campuses, asking questions no person at 18 would be ready to handle. Questions about radicalism, terror and hate. Questions with an angle, with a guilt-imposing tone. And these men, at the ages of 18, 19, 20, 21 continue to face these questions head on.
This is not unique to my little campus. Nor is it isolated to those over the age of eighteen. Today’s high school-aged Muslims, both male and female have to handle so much more than I did at their age. Another topic for another post, I suppose.
The Muslim woman’s plight is to be continuously underestimated and undermined by the general public because of her assumed oppression. The Muslim Man, however, has to overcome the trope of the violent, crazy-eyed barbarian. I don’t know which I find more hurtful.
I once spent the day with a non-Muslim colleague working on an assignment. This colleague was a little bit older but I could tell he was making an effort to try to understand my “young and crazy” ways. I took a second to send a Snap to a friend, as we young and crazy twenty-somethings are known to do, and my colleague ducked out of the way, going, “Don’t get me in your snapchats now. Your father will ask you who that dirty infidel is.”
My heart stopped. To think of my father ever referring to another human being as a “dirty infidel” more than just ridiculous; it was one of the most racist things ever said to my face.
This man had never met my father, but he saw a young, hijab-wearing woman in front of him and made an assumption.
For the record, I have never once heard my father say the word “infidel.” He doesn’t have Snapchat either.
Gentlemen, I see you. When you grow your beards out and pronounce your names correctly, I see you. When you defend the hijab alone in a classroom, I see you. When you take care of your mothers and your grandmothers, I see you. When you take the time to support the efforts of your sisters in Islam, I see you. And when you continue to live lives of kindness in the face of such venom and hate, I see you. And I thank you.
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