Dichotomy of Muslim identity is a false representation

by | Nov 27, 2015 | Opinion

Mahnoor Yawar

News Editor

Here’s a Muslim story for you: I’m so tired of hearing people talk about “Muslim stories.”

The media cycle itself has recently been overrun with binary narratives about the danger of some Muslims and the need for tolerance with others.

On the one hand, we must be terrified of the extremes that militant Islamists can go to.

On the other, we must be accepting and tolerant of those who live among us, or come here seeking refuge.

There’s no explanation of how to tell them apart, or even what they believe, so the resulting confusion seems objectively sensible.

Reducing Muslim narratives to convenient news packages may serve the cycle well, but latent hatred never fades. Language matters. The chronic other-ization of an entire visible minority implicates it by proxy. It spawns a culture of blame and suspicion even as it aims to dispel the very stereotypes it perpetuates.

Hate can adapt to anything. Hints suffice in awakening an otherwise latent phobia, regardless of whom it’s directed at.

When you automatically classify an entire group as other, no matter how well-meaning you are, you feed a false dichotomy that lends credence to their alienation.

‘They” will always be capable of horrendous acts, because no one knows exactly who ‘they’ are. As long as it’s not ‘us’, whoever that is.

To allies who show solidarity, please don’t expect our congratulations. Bragging about how much more progressive you are than your racist relatives isn’t going to endear you to us any more.

Telling us #IllRideWithYou isn’t going to make us tear up with gratitude. Your being a decent human being is for your conscience, not our benefit.

Why shouldn’t a hijab-clad woman be entitled to safety, and the right to navigate public spaces freely?

Why does she need another person to validate and defend her existence?

Do we ask the same of people who choose any other form of personal expression? Do we tell them to ‘buddy up’ in order to feel safe in broad daylight?

To those who ask, it isn’t my job to stand up for all Muslims everywhere, or apologize for their wrongdoings.

Just as it is not my job to stand up for my skin colour, my gender, my homeland or my sexuality on principle. I can only stand up for myself, and explain my actions.

My body is my only home, and it takes up space just as much as yours does. The labels that identify it do not enlist me in a mandatory political discussion.

And if there’s one thing I’m certain of, it’s that

I haven’t earned the right to being diminished as a story told by anyone else. No matter how well intentioned the agenda behind it.