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Friday, September 18, 2015

Muslim in America

I have been thinking a lot about little Ahmed from Texas. A 14 year old boy feeling the effects of a country and state and school filled with fear and bigotry. He just wanted to show an incredibly cool clock he built and instead he gets humiliated, cuffed and arrested because, let's be honest, he was Muslim. A young Muslim boy---the recipient of all the hate and religious intolerance this country is experiencing, dimming our alleged beacon of light. The worst part is by arresting him like that and parading him cuffed in front of his schoolmates, they were only perpetuating the fear, the narrative that: "Islam is bad! Ahmed is bad! Be afraid of him and others like him! Clearly, he's a terrorist! All Muslims are terrorists!!"

But then something happened. (Did his school Irving MacArthur High School in Texas apologize? No. Actually the opposite, although an apology would have been the proper response and could have created a learning moment.) But people stepped up. It's like what I was talking about in a previous blog about the refugee crisis. In this case it was a really important person: the President of the United States. Holy cow, you guys. President Obama tweeted this:
How amazing. I was so proud of our president for stepping into this and tweeting a HUGE show of respect and support for Ahmed. if only all of our leaders would step up in ways like this and be role models instead of "must-get-re-elected-fear-mongering-crazy-people". What a game changer that must have been for Ahmed. Follow that by hundreds of thousands of tweets supporting him: #istandwithahmed and special invitations from Facebook, Twitter and MIT. What a day!

And now, maybe just maybe, a little sting of this day is off for Ahmed. Maybe, just maybe he realizes he is okay, smart and yes, even valued in this society even if he has brown skin and a Muslim faith. Maybe, just maybe, he will accept that he is not a criminal or a terrorist as he said he felt and has been called---but just a kid, like every other kid in his school, a good kid in a crazy world. Maybe now he knows that although many of us are fearful and bigoted, not all of us are. It takes just one to step up, to change the tides, to take that heartbreaking look of fear off his face. It could be any of us in a different situation.

We have opportunities every day to be more of who we say we are, who we want to be, who we claim to be as a people. We are a nation of immigrants who seem to have forgotten that fact. We are a nation founded on religious freedom, yet seem to now think that only applies to Christianity. We claim the "land of the free and home of the brave" but have become the "land of the intolerant and home of the fearful."

Shame on the teachers and administrators at Irving MacArthur and the local police. Shame on them for perpetuating hate and stereotypes, for teaching their students fear and bigotry, for reacting from their lowest selves. Shame on them for perpetuating the Muslim-as-terrorist narrative, as Bitter Gertrude blogged. And shame on the current political voices encouraging, even embracing that fear, bigotry and yes, the narrative. Shame on them. We have a responsibility to not let these voices go unchecked, to not let bigotry and xenophobia reign, to see that acceptance, goodness and generosity become the loudest voices in the room.

But thankfully good is coming out of this. I can only hope more will, that our true colors will fight to shine through. And I hope Ahmed's life brightens in ways he can't imagine because of this shameful event. Maybe ours too.

#istandwithahmedandmuslims #weareallthesame #manufacturedfeardamages #nicejobpotus #hashtagheaven #I'vebeenbloggingalot #you'reabeacon

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