Summer Zehra | The Mad Mamluks
Since 9/11, Muslim Americans have gone through various stages that have been shaped by a largely reactionary approach to the mainstream narrative. Muslims adamantly proclaimed that all Muslims are not terrorists, followed by most Muslims love peace, then a flurry of reminders of Muslim accomplishments in the past (Al-Jabra and coffee!) . After this, Muslims have been constantly trying to bring modern accomplishments into the spotlight. As if that wasn’t enough to prove that we are human beings with various strengths and capabilities, Muslims are now at the next stage:
Look, Muslims can integrate! We can run, jump, cook, write, be politicians, musicians, activists, designers and appear on magazine covers. It is crucial that there are genuine Muslim narratives being presented in the mainstream, but each of these things are often received with a condescending tone of awe and amazement. It’s anxiety-inducing, not only because there is the implied and unfair burden of representing an entire faith group of 1.3 billion people with your every action, but now it must also prove how American you are? Like Clinton’s remarks that Muslims are “on the frontline of fighting terrorism” or like Trump’s stance that all Muslims should be banned. Is there no middle ground, where we’re just people?
Why is there all this undue pressure to prove that Muslims are diverse? The practice of Islam as a religion varies from country to country, neighborhood to neighborhood and even from person to person. We know and readily accept that Christianity and Judaism have a spectrum. We’ve seen and lived with the spectrum, but that doesn’t mean a Nun has to put out a designer line at NYFW for us to value her or realize she is a complex person. Nor does an Orthodox Jewish woman need to promote her views on illicit magazines for us to accept different worldviews. Similarly, Muslims are all along a spectrum of faith and action. In fact, the same Muslim person may hop around the spectrum throughout their lives, as their life experiences, worldviews change and they evolve.
The narrative and voices will continue to evolve to highlight what is important and relevant. But what is more critical than integrating with a particular country’s culture to seek acceptance in that country, is Muslims around the world just needing to be recognized as diverse, beautiful, flawed and mainly, just human.