Muslims don’t support violence.”
As a young
Muslim woman living in Canada, it’s a phrase all too familiar to me. I feel
pressured by everyone around me to regularly apologize for the horrific acts
committed by extremists all around the world. I fear my religion will always be
used to explain my behaviour. I have to constantly smile and be happy because I
don’t want to come off as rude or angry; I must remember to go out of my way to
show the world that Muslims are not bad people, that we are not terrorists.
of constant scrutiny multiplies for women who wear the Hijab (the headscarf
some Muslim women wear), because their Muslim identity is made obvious by their
outer appearance. Even those who don’t wear the Hijab, however, immediately
feel an implicit pressure to prove that they aren’t what the media makes
Muslims out to be as soon as they inform anyone of their religion.
to be in a permanent good mood is the least of my worries. The expectation that
I must apologize for acts that aren’t my own has personally affected me in
other ways, too.
I was a little girl, I’ve been extremely outspoken. I’ve always loved getting
into heated discussions, debating controversial topics, and questioning
everything around me. Growing up, I spent many years in the Middle East, where
my opinionated personality was actually seen as a wonderful aspect of my
character. I was free to talk about whatever I pleased and give opinions about
an unlimited number of situations without fearing I’d be judged for doing so.
moved back to Canada at a slightly older age, though, I began to recognize the
negative connotations that surround these personality traits. Especially
considering that my religion was under constant scrutiny in North America, I
realized that rather than coming off as outspoken, I probably came off as
aggressive. My opinions weren’t going to be seen as powerful, they were going
to be seen as violent. It seemed that expressing my opinions made me seem like
just another “hateful Muslim” trying to force my beliefs onto others. And as a
young girl dying to be accepted, that was the last thing I wanted.
several years, therefore, attempting to be non-confrontational — trying to
avoid difficult, awkward conversations or taking a powerful stance on any issue
about which I felt passionately. I spent a lot of time preoccupying myself with
trivial things that didn’t matter in an attempt to seem like any other “normal”
person my age, and I mostly refused to get into any political discussions for
fear that I would end up on the wrong side of the argument. When I did discuss
politics, I only apologized for the actions of extremists around the world who
in no way represented me. I never questioned doing so, since the Muslims around
me did the same for no reason other than that we felt obligated to.
problem with that, though: My apology to you is not going to stop extremists
from being violent. It does, however, reinforce the notion that extremists’
violence is the collective fault of all Muslims, because who apologizes for
something they didn’t do? Nobody.
person will be violent, and a hateful person will be hateful, no matter their
religious affiliation. Anybody can take words from a religious text out of
context. Take the KKK, for example: They act in the name of Christianity and
use quotes from the Bible to support their bigotry. Yet I think we can all
agree that Christians overall are not held accountable for the KKK’s actions,
that KKK members are seen as fanatics. So why do we hypocritically expect over
a billion Muslims to condemn and take responsibility for “radical Islam”?
me wrong, I do understand why people react to extremist violence this way. Fear
is a powerful, overwhelming emotion. Unfortunately, the mainstream media is
very aware of that and has a powerful way with words. People are scared and
seem to think their fear is more manageable when they have someone to blame.
Sadly, that is exactly what is happening: The media is placing all individuals
who identify with a marginalized community into one restrictive box that
homogenizes them into a violent stereotype, and then using them as scapegoats
and fear mongering tools.
know what? That fear clearly hasn’t gotten any of us anywhere. I can’t blame
anyone for being scared, but I can blame people for how they choose to respond
to those feelings. We’re all human beings. I am a human being. I am tired of
having to constantly prove my humanity. Yes, I am a Muslim. No, I don’t support
terrorism. Yes, the idea of another person being hurt makes me sick to my
stomach, and no, that isn’t something I should have to explicitly tell you. It
is not my job to apologize on behalf of violent imbeciles who in no way
represent me: Every single individual is responsible for their own actions.
of the story is, I’m exhausted. I am tired of always worrying about what I say
so I don’t come off as too “violent,” and I’m tired of having to go the extra
mile to prove to strangers that I am just as human as they are. I don’t want to
limit my passion and strength just to be accepted. Having strong thoughts and
opinions about a particular subject doesn’t make me just another “aggressive
Muslim” — it makes me a strong, powerful individual whose thoughts, ideas, and
dreams can change the world.
you, I am someone’s daughter, someone’s sibling, someone’s best friend. My
voice is useful for more than just condemning the same people over and over
again, simply to gain your approval. My voice is important, and it is powerful.
My voice is loud and tired of being silenced. My voice is here to stay.
Nour is a young Palestinian-Canadian whose
background has allowed her to gain great insight into the reality of injustice
and oppression in our society. She hopes to major in human rights law in order
to stand for those who cannot do so for themselves.