Image taken from Muslim Women’s Prayer Spaces, a cool blog on women prayer spaces. Having gone to this mosque my whole life I can tell you this is what a typical day there looks like: people scattered, praying privately and peacefully after the congregation is over.
I’m a Muslim American. And everything I am is because of this country, specifically, because of Maryland. I’ve grown up in Maryland, practiced my faith in Maryland, chose to start wearing the scarf in Maryland, went to public high school in Maryland, made amazing friends of all faiths and background in Maryland, even going to college at University of Maryland.
Maryland has always been home. It’s always been a friendly, safe, place in which I could practice my religion freely. I’ve prayed in empty classrooms at Wilde Lake High between classes and gone to school plays after local mosque events.
Being a practicing Muslim has never, ever come into conflict with my capacity to be a young, involved, Maryland citizen. Besides open gawking at the grocery store here and there and a post-it note on my car one time, I have to say I’ve been treated with nothing but dignity and respect my whole life.
Enter Mike “Mikey” White, a regular Joe who believes that the Iran Deal was a huge mistake or something, and as such, wants “everyone held accountable.” He’s a part of the group “Rogue Infidel” that sells “F*** Islam” shirts to raise money to, as they put it “help get Islam out of America.” He and his supporters are selling a narrative that has been perpetrated by the likes of Ben Carson and Jeb Bush for weeks now.
As if this isn’t disconcerting enough, he is participating in the “Global Rally for Humanity” this weekend, and bringing it to my mosque — my sanctuary — Dar-al-Taqwa. The event description reads:
Humanity is attacked daily by the so called religion of Islam. It’s time we step up as mankind and say enough is enough. October 9th and 10th will be a global 2 day Rally for Humanity to send a powerful message to all the leaders of Islam and especially those that are trying to destroy the western civilized world.
As a human being, firstly, I am personally offended, more so because the religion of Islam has done more to contribute to my humanity than any other aspect of my life. As a proud Maryland resident, the fact that this event has even garnered support and positive attention in Howard County is nothing short of heartbreaking to me.
Who are we really protecting when a protest from angry, malicious, far-right extremists staunchly against Islam is taking place outside of a mosque? Who are these people really protesting this Saturday, when on a typical Saturday at the mosque, kids from age 5-17 from all over Maryland come to learn their religion at the Saturday School?
This week’s Saturday School was forced to be cancelled out of safety concerns for the children due to the protests. Is this what we’ve become? Home of the “free”, land of those “brave” enough to target places children go to study their faith?
I can’t help but feel let down by system that promises me the freedom to practice any religion I choose, and a government that will quickly arrest a 14-year-old for building a clock but will do nothing to grown men and women spewing hate outside a religious sanctuary.
Maryland was my home and America is my country.
Can you still really call a place your home if you don’t feel safe there anymore? I still consider myself a patriot because I will vigorously fight against the threats that are truly tearing my country apart: gun violence, mass incarceration of African Americans, systematic racism, Islamophobia, drone strikes against innocent people, and much more. However, as I would like to suggest to this Rally for Humanity, and all those who are allowing it to occur (especially under such a false guise), that Islam, especially the peaceful practice of it in America, is not one of them.
As my mosque prepares to deal with an unfamiliar, terrifying influx of hatred in an unforgiving post-9/11 world, I can’t help but think: I am so disappointed in you, Maryland. And as I write this post from my new home in Virginia, miles away from where Thomas Jefferson, a man who gleaned so much inspiration for the basis of this country from his copy of the Holy Quran, I can’t help but think that America has let me down, too.
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