Today, I have been reading a powerful article in the Huffington Post about the experiences of being an Iranian in today’s America, under Donald Trump. The author has written a very wonderful reflection.
He discusses how his experiences have changed in the climate after the 9/11 attacks, and how isolating it can feel as a muslim in mainstream America even in a large city with a larger immigrant community like Boston or Chicago, my home. I think it is a very interesting article because while the author talks about how depressing the islamophobia has been to deal with in the 21st century, he is given hope by all the people who are speaking out about it now that Mr. Trump is our president. That was not the case in the earlier years of this century, and while there is still a long way to go, it does show something has changed in the society for the better.
I have had many similar experiences, and I think it might be useful to tell about them. I arrived in this country in the year 2000, just over a year before the attacks of 9/11. I am publicly muslim, even though it is somewhat harder to see a man as muslim than a woman because we have no formal headwear. I belong to a mosque in Chicago, where I have attended prayers since I arrived in the United States. While some people give all immigrants strange looks, in a suit and tie I did not experience anything until the terrible attacks in 2001 on the World Trade Center.
The name Faraz and the color of my skin soon began to attract other attention that was not at all positive. It was even places like Starbucks as I waited for my coffee in a line that when my name was called, older white people in particular would look around in alarm. This made me sad, especially .
I am relatively lucky in my condo development, because many of the residents have known me for over a decade. However, some of the newer residents and the tenants in the rental units have been rather standoffish from time to time, and it is hard to explain in any other context than fear and bigotry.
I am a strong believer that by knowing one’s neighbor more closely, we will build the trust and love that is missing in so many parts of our society right now. That is why I am always somewhat forward when I encounter suspicion in my community. I do not say “you are a racist,” because that does not help. But I go out of my way to smile, and say hello to people who are giving me looks, and to get involved in my community through charity and volunteering so that I can show that I believe that I have much in common with my neighbors and their goals in life.
So while I do not talk a lot about myself as a muslim, that is only because I believe that my being American comes first! I hope we will all take this time of trial to come together, rather than to grow further apart. For those of us like me who are new to the community, it would mean everything.