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Monday, 6 November 2017

Stringent Measures

  Another day of senseless violence; twenty-six people dead in a church in Texas, just a few days after eight were mowed down in Manhattan, a month after fifty-eight were killed when a gunman opened fire during a concert in Las Vegas. The number killed varies, as do the locations, but the way most people react to the violence remains the same. There is grief as there should be. The numbers do not convey the loss of each individual or the impact on the families and friends. But there is also digging around for explanations, seeking motivations for the violence, and blame.
  A white man shooting people is a "lone gunman." A man with a Muslim sounding name is a "terrorist."
  The white man "acted alone" due to "mental illness." The Muslim man is a representative of all the Muslims on the planet, and all of us so called Muslims find ourselves hanging our heads in shame, as if we are all somehow complicit in the lunacy of the man who took it upon himself to drive a van into innocent pedestrians.
  A few years back, I read The Inconvenient Indian, A Curious Account of Native People in North America by Thomas King and much in that book stayed with me. In particular, this sentence: "They get to make their mistakes as individuals and not as representatives of an entire race." That sentence resonated back then, and still does right now, except the extend of the punishment is larger.
  Muslims are not a race. We come in all colours. Mostly, brown, sure, but not always brown. We can be black and surprise, surprise, even white.We come in different flavours too. The devout ones like my grandmothers. The atheists, like the ones dearest to me in my family because I understand their doubts, and then of course, there are the agnostics like me; happy to sit on the fence and watch the game, content to play both sides from time to time, as long as we don't have to decide on whether we believe or not.
  But I am digressing from my main complaint, which is not other people's inability to spot us correctly in a crowd, though that does hurt, (After all, if you are going to discriminate, at least do so, in a somewhat educated manner) but other people's insistence on lumping all Muslims together as if we are all the same.
  Here's some news: Gather together a hundred Muslims and you will find a hundred  different individuals with differing opinions on everything including their own religion.
  Why is it that the white man is always a "lone wolf," while the insane brownish-looking man is somehow always ascribed to belonging to a lager pack of Muslims? The deaths in Manhattan were followed by Trump openly talking about the folly of the "diversity visa lottery" and the need for more stringent checks. The implication being that peaceful Americans need to be kept safe from dangerous people, who vaguely resemble my father, my brother, my husband, and now, my 16-year-old son.
Just the other day, my sixteen-year-old decided on a bike ride with a friend all the way to downtown Toronto from our home in North York and my husband and I panicked. It was dark and he had been gone a while. He returned safe and sound and we heaved a sigh of relief, but when we were driving around looking for him and I saw a police car, my first thought was that my son is brown, has a Muslim name, and is nearly six-feet tall. In the dark, a boy his size, bearing his name, might be regarded as a threat. The police car did nothing to reassure me.
  Here's something from another favourite book, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra: "The trees they passed repeated on and on into the woods. None was remarkable when compared to the next, but each was individual in some small regard: the number of limbs, the girth of the trunk, the circumference of shed leaves encircling the base. No more than minor particularities, but minor particularities were what transferred two eyes, a nose, and a mouth into a face."

My greatest fear is that some day, someone might look into my child's face, and instead of seeing him; the big, brown eyes under the high arching eye brows, the small nose, which adds to rather than detracts from, the larger beauty of his face, the stubborn chin, and the high cheekbones, all they will see is a person who kind of fits into their typecast of a Muslim man and therefore, a potential threat.

And how I wish that Trump's wish for more stringent checks comes true. The world needs more stringent checks on who gets to lead the most powerful country on the planet.

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