The Helpers 

 A while ago, I wrote a post discussing how human beings often form bonds through mutual dislikes. Unfortunately, Muslims are still a strong contender for the “Least Desirable Citizens” title, thanks to people who call themselves Muslims, but commit acts that are very much opposed to the teachings of Islam. 

After September 11, 2001, many of us found ourselves on the receiving end of hateful words and angry glares. Fortunately, social media was no more than email chains. I may have known that the people on the subway were displeased with me as a person, but I didn’t know how John from Ireland felt. I didn’t know Yoon from Korea wished he could see all Muslims exterminated.

With the prevalence of social media, it’s hard not to feel as though the whole world is against me because of the way I choose to worship God. Twitter is full of posters who wouldn’t mind seeing us all rounded up and pushed into a hole in the center of the earth. When you are bombarded with these messages, it’s tough not to get discouraged. It’s even harder not to lash out. I want to respond to hateful comments with my own rage-filled vitriol on most days. But then I take a deep breath and remind myself that lashing out accomplishes absolutely nothing.

Fred Rogers said that when he was a boy and would see scary things on the news, his mother would say to him: “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” I find myself applying this method of thinking to my own life a lot lately. Sure, there are people out there (even presidential candidates) who voice their contempt for Muslims at every opportunity. These people tend to be the loudest, and are thus granted the most attention. While the hatred boosts ratings of news networks, folks with beautiful hearts and open minds are combating blanket stereotyping. I have received so many heartfelt messages from friends of all faiths, reminding me that there are people who love me and have my back. 

To each of you who have reached out to me to show your support, to those of you who have prayed for me, to the strangers who have stopped me in the grocery store to offer kind words and smiles, and to those of you who have either loudly or quietly voiced your opposition to prejudice: thank you for being the helpers that I can look for when my heart aches and my hijab feels heavy.

 

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