By Alex Shams
I hate that every time something awful happens, I read the news and want to be able to mourn and reflect on the senseless tragedy, but instead a plea in the back of my head forms and just keeps hitting me in the face over and over: “Please don’t let them be Muslim, please don’t let them be Muslim, please God don’t let them be Muslim …”
And I end up skipping over the details of the tragedy, the names and places that seem to run together, rushing down to take a look at the names of the perpetrators or the vague references to possible motives or the appearance of the word “Muhammad,” just trying to figure out what the reaction will be, how much I have to brace myself, how many apologies they will expect from all of us for something carried out by one of the 1.6 billion other people who happen to have a Quran in their house …
Will they invade somewhere new this time? Block immigration from this country or that, or perhaps pull funding for programs that rescue migrants from sinking boats in the Mediterranean? Launch drone strikes on a new city in Syria, maybe Yemen or Afghanistan or perhaps Somalia or Iraq? Who will come out this time and say multiculturalism doesn’t work, and people like me shouldn’t have been allowed to exist in the first place because we embody some clash of civilizations apparently manifested in some random angry dude shooting something up?
Will I have to go find that list of white Christian people who blew things up and start shoving it down everyone’s throat just so I can feel a little less scared that “it’s not just us”? The wikipedia page of all those mass shootings and attacks on kindergartens that didn’t trigger any national conversation about whether white people should even be in our country to begin with?
And after reading through the reactions, trying to anticipate which angle I’m supposed to take this time, which imperial war or racist policy or drone bombing I should mention “not to justify, but … ,” when I finally have a moment where my mind stops racing … I realize how fucked up it is that I cannot just mourn, that my body — exhausted from years of explaining and sharing and trying to make people see other sides, years at school of getting bullied and called “Osama” and a million other Muslim names from places I had never been to — cannot allow me just to read and pause, to cry, to see the dead as human beings and not as potential pawns in a political game being waged by those on high, thirsty for any excuse to promote their bigotry.
I can’t just be sad, not even once, because I have to have my list of “Muslim leaders who condemned ISIS” on the ready, just in case. And all I can do is mourn the fact that I seem to have lost my ability to mourn …