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And so it begins. A drunk college student climbs into an NYC cab, asks the driver how long he's been in the
By: Bro. Shyam Sriram
U.S., where he's from, if he's Muslim and if he's celebrating Ramadan. Then the student pulls out a tool and slashes the driver in the face, neck and arm. This is not a liberal fantasy or the ACLU's wet dream. This is the unfortunate reality for 43-year old Ahmed Sharif, an American of Bangladeshi heritage.
In his statement to the police, Sharif said, "I feel very sad. I have been here more than 25 years. Have been driving a taxi for more than 15 years. All my four kids were born here. I never feel this hopeless and insecure before."
In his coverage of the event, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann's noted the bizarre background of the alleged attacker who had just volunteered with a religious organization in Afghanistan, which supported what we now call the Park 51 initiative for the new Manhattan mosque, and who had no known violent priors. But, as Olbermann suggets, perhaps he was brainwashed by the anti-Muslim hysteria of the last month?
There is no other way to say this - Islam is under attack in America. Muslims are under attack. We are being challenged from every direction about our religion, our ways of life, our dress, our prophets, etc. But, I am also aware of an enormous and powerful ethic of courage that permeates the American Muslim community. The irony of the anti-Park 51 debates is that I have not seen such strong Muslim identity since 9/12.
So, here are my words of advice to my strong and beautiful Muslim brothers and sisters - continue to practice Islam in the manner that you have been doing so. Continue to express your freedom of religion as guaranteed by our Constitution. Continue to wear your hijab or niqab, your abaya or thobe, kufi or hatta. Continue to perform your prayers and if need be, pray in public instead of missing your prayers. I have tried to practice Islam the way it is supposed to and I have not been afraid of having a beard or wearing a hoodie that read "Alhamdulillah" or doing dhikr with beads on a plane.
Let us not turn ourselves into a hateful, seething mob of Muslims who seek revenge for our brother, Ahmed. Instead, let us forgive this young man and show him the true meaning of Islam - through our words and actions.
I was in Oregon a few months ago with my partner and we were figuring out where to pray. I pointed to an area, but she said it was too public. I replied that sometimes we might have to pray in public and it was okay, but she disagreed. She said that she didn't feel comfortable with people staring at her and was also afraid of her safety because she wore hijab. I do come from male privilege and I have no idea what it is like to wear a head scarf in public. But, what I told her then and what I believe now is that if we, as Muslims, become afraid of practicing our faith in public, then "they" have won. They have broken our spirit and made us feel like we cannot be American and Muslim. They have won the cultural war and the political one as well.
I often give my students a famous quote from General John Stark, which can always be used as a comment on the value of liberty, and which has since been transcribed as the state motto for New Hampshire
"LIVE FREE OR DIE. DEATH IS NOT THE WORST OF ALL EVILS."