Being Muslim. Being a woman. Being a Muslim-American woman. This identity is especially hard for me right now.
I was born in Detroit, Michigan 27 years ago so that makes me a citizen of what many people believe to be the greatest country in the world. It makes me an American. My parents came to the United States during the Lebanese Civil War in the late 70’s. They left everything they had and moved to the unknown. They spoke little to no English and owned next to nothing. They learned to speak English at night school. My father laid cement and worked as a dishwasher in the back of a kitchen restaurant.
My mother worked full time as well, raising three kids while going to school to become a teacher. It took her seven years to get a bachelor’s degree. They didn’t have much money and they experienced stresses that I could only imagine.
Years later, my father is a Doctor of Sociology and my mother has her master’s. She has been teaching in the same public school system for over 30 years. My parents are citizens of this country. They are Muslim. They are Lebanese. They are American. I am Muslim. I am Lebanese. I am American.
The notion that if you have an accent, if you wear a burka, if you weren’t born in this country, you are an alien is beyond dead-tired to me. I can’t tell you how many times I have witnessed the way fellow Americans register my father’s accent. I watch as a man with a doctorate is reduced to the pronunciation of his words. It makes me wonder if immigrants of the U.S. ever feel truly at home in this country.
My mother is a strong Muslim woman. She works hard, only eats halal and prays. These are adherences to the Islamic faith, but she never pushes her beliefs onto anyone in our family. My father drinks beer, does the dishes and mops the floor. My mother calls her own shots, doesn’t wear a burka, comes and goes as she pleases, and calls my dad an asshole when he deserves it. They are an equal entity. They are the head of a strong, independent Muslim-American family.
So when I hear Donald J. Trump say that Ghazala Khan was ‘probably-maybe not allowed to speak’ while standing next to her husband at the DNC, I am angered. I am livid. Because I am a Muslim woman and I have a voice. My mother has a voice. My older sister has a voice and, trust me, we are not quiet. I grew up in Dearborn, Michigan, home to the largest population of Lebanese Muslims in this country. All of my girlfriends have voices.
Is it my duty to denounce the acts of Isis as a Muslim? Fuck no. Do I denounce them? Absolutely. Should I have to say that out loud? That I am an American, anti-terrorist, Isis-hating Muslim? That I am a secular Muslim? That I was raised a Muslim but I’m just like the average American woman? That my family isn’t particularly religious? If they were, would I have to explain that they are religious but not the “scary kind of Muslim” religious? That you shouldn’t be afraid of a burka? Should I have to explain to people that not all Arabs are Muslims and not all Muslims are Arabs? No. I shouldn’t have to.
If I don’t wear a burka, would anyone even know I’m Muslim or Lebanese or would I just fall into one of three categories: Black, White, Hispanic? Just an FYI, my name is not Maria and I don’t speak Spanish.
This is where I draw the line. This is where I wave my Muslim card loud and proud. This is where I wave my woman card loud and proud. This is where I say that I am an educated, American woman from an educated family that raised me to speak up whenever I saw injustice. A family that taught me to never utter a racist comment, and to use my very loud MUSLIM-AMERICAN WOMAN voice whenever I heard someone else doing so. This is where I scream at the top of my lungs to anyone who will listen.
Can you hear us now?