Terrorist

Religion is a touchy subject

And people very rarely ask what religion you are

But even though they don’t ask

They guess

They characterize you

White skin, black hair, almond eyes

Buddhist, Buddhist equals passive

White skin, blonde hair, blue eyes

Catholic, Catholic equals conservative

Dark skin, wild hair, dark eyes

Jewish, Jewish equals money-grabber

Hooked nose, dark hair, olive skin

Muslim, Muslim equals terrorist

 

I am not a terrorist

I watch you cringe as I walk past with my father

Unconsciously stepping in front of your family

Your body between us and them

As if to protect them from a great evil

My father, a man who’d never even handled a gun

Me, a thirteen year old girl, trying out a hijab for the very first time

And as you tried to protect your family

From some perceived danger

I thought to myself,

I have a family I would die to protect

So why would I die to harm yours?

 

My blood looks the same as yours

Crimson red like crushed rose petals

My lungs fail just like yours

Collapsing inwards like a house of cards

My body is destroyed just like yours

When a bomb levels my city to the ground

Blackened skin, bloated body

Glistening blood running down the streets

I am like you

And I am not a terrorist

 

I am like you in every way that matters

I eat, breathe, laugh, cry

Love, hate, live, die

Just like you

I bleed red

I breathe air

I live life

I die death

I love family

I hate enemies

I am human

I am you

And neither you nor I

Are terrorists

 

Yet you still flinch when I walk past

You still whisper behind hands

You still crack jokes about bombs

Thinking it’s okay because

“I have Muslim friends.”

But every word that exits your mouth

Regarding terrorists and Muslims

Reinforces stereotypes

And adds another layer of coal

To the burning fire of hate

Hate for my people

Even though we

Are not terrorists

 

After 9/11

My sister, at five years old, was bullied at school by older students

I, at three years old, was given dirty looks by parents

My brother, at a year old, was handled in disgust by teachers

My parents, at work, were shunned or looked down upon

I hate those people who destroyed those buildings too

They hurt my country and degraded my people

Please do not blame my brother or my sister

Do not blame my mother or my father

Do not blame me

Because we are not terrorists

 

You blame 1.3 billion people

For beheadings, for bombings, for slaughters

But when a white man does the same thing

He is lauded as a lone wolf

While we are blamed as part of the wolf pack

They’ll pack boxes full of explanations

On why that white man killed

He had a mental problem

His parents didn’t love him

He was bullied in school

But when someone who looks like me does the same

We are heralded as savages

And instantly,

All 1.3 billion of us…

Terrorists

 

Because the land of the free

And the home of the brave

Is only free to those who fit the predetermined prototype

And the only brave are those labeled as criminals

For daring to stand up to injustice

 

At eleven, I was told a friend could no longer be my friend

Because they’d found out I identified as Muslim

At twelve, I was stopped in the airport so

A lady could swab my hands for gunpowder residue

At thirteen, I was denied entry in a store

Because I looked “too Arab”

At fourteen, I was spit at

For daring to read the Qu’ran in a park

And at fifteen, well

At fifteen, I almost gave up Islam

Because at fifteen I was through

With being called a terrorist

Because at fifteen I was tired of saying

I am not a terrorist

This poem is about: 
Me
My family
My community

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