After a Tragedy: Letter to a Muslim Student in These Troubled TimesWritten by Idil Abdulkadir
Ottawa high school teacher Idil Abdulkadir offers advice to Muslim students in the wake of tragedies such as the recent Paris Attacks.
Dear Muslim Student,
After tragedies like the one in Paris the World erupts in fear. We speculate and post status updates, we mourn the dead and wonder what life will be like for the living. But I always wonder what life will be like for you.
After tragedies you have to go back to school with your Muslim names, headscarves, black and brown skin. Even now, as a high school teacher, I get sick to my stomach the day after an attack.
Sadly, I have had a lot of experience at it by now. Here is some advice I wish someone had given me:
Don’t become obsessed with fighting the stereotype.
Not at school, not on Facebook, not on Twitter. I have spent too much time trying to get others to see my humanity…all it does is hurt. The people who know you don’t need convincing and you owe nothing to strangers but kindness. Be kind and good, but be those things for you.
The strangers who think we are monsters cannot be convinced otherwise. If it wasn’t us, they would hate someone else. Spend less time thinking about what you are not and more time dreaming of all the things you want to become.
Don’t waste your time debating.
“Maybe all Muslims aren’t terrorists, but why are all terrorists Muslim?”
This isn’t true, but it doesn’t matter. Someone will say it and you will think that if you just had some facts you could change their mind. You can’t. And if you can’t change their mind, then at least you can win the argument. You won’t. And when they have references and verse numbers you will be tempted to go online to find your own. Don’t. Anger and the desire to win are dangerous ingredients to mix with your faith.
Faith is about God, so learn about it to connect your soul to God. Ask the hard questions of your community leaders! Figure this whole thing out but do it for you, not for them.
Focus on your allies.
You know how the Internet works: Mosques and Sikh Gurdwaras will be vandalized, brown-skinned men and women in hijabs will be attacked, and we will all share it.
We share because we are scared and we want the World to see that we are victims too. But too much bad news will wear you out. It will make you sad and angry; it will make the world a scarier place.
Get offline for a while. Focus your attention on the people who choose love in real life. Look around at your friends at school who want to debate and fight bullies on your behalf, the teacher who checks to make sure that you are okay and strangers who smile and hold doors open. Look up, because our allies are everywhere.
Above all else, please take care of yourself and those who you love.
Love, A Muslim Teacher
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