“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
We are taught that notions of individuality -and the inherent equality among men – arose after centuries of warfare based on differences. To avoid ethnic cleansing and civil strife, the idea of treating all men as equals would create a level playing field, erasing the long standing differences of class, dress, religion, and culture. In order to preserve these ideals, they must be enshrined the laws of the land.
However, this is not the case.
If one was to go on newspaper coverage alone, the past decade has been brutal for Muslims of all race, ethnicity, and nationalities living in the West. In the United States, Europe, and Australia, there have been protests, diatribes, and violence over mosques and community center construction, the formation of religious schools, and the demand for halal meat and food preparation in public cafeterias, restaurants and shops.
Below are a few examples:
- France bans full face veils in 2011, and religious clothing in public schools in 2004
- CNN Poll finds that 68% oppose the “Ground Zero” Mosque and Community Center
- KKK stages rally in Lewiston, ME to protest Somali refugees
- UK town grapples with Halal Meat in School Lunchroom
- Australians attack those of “Middle Eastern” complexion in Cronulla
The veil, a long accepted symbol of modesty – in the same way that long skirts, pants, and sleeves connote modesty and “appropriate dress” among many- is now on par with the Yellow Star as a marker of something that’s “not us”.
In order to truly be us, such societies seem to be saying, you must get rid of all that is not us. We must not be able to tell what you are by appearance, action, speech, or thought. Imran Malik sums up what that feels like -and how it affects your behavior and sense of self – in this interview from GRIT.tv
To say that such a situation is a problem – and in violation of basic human rights – is to state the obvious. To ask someone to forsake their behavior and beliefs in order to gain admission to and greater mobility within a free society bodes ill for the world at large.
As a result of adopting such a position, we’ve thrown ourselves back into the older, us-verses-them delineations and civil strife that we’re trying to avoid. Instead of creating a truly appearance blind society, we’ve created one that values similarity over differences -and the backlash against that hypocrisy has begun.
Muslim Pride is on the rise.
The Hijab is Beautiful, Friday is a Holy Day, and Allah and Amps are all expressions of Muslims challenging the assimilation discrimination. So are books like “Halal Pork“,”How Does it Feel to Be a Problem?, and “Unveiling the Truth: Why 32 Muslim Women Wear the Full-Face Veil in France.”
Some are even adhering to stronger delineation via dress and personal grooming as means of announcing who they are and what they value, while others are mix and match – just like the rest of us.
At the center of all these movements lies the belief that one is indeed guaranteed the same rights and privileges as others. To be yourself without molestation or shame and to defend your right to do what you please within reason. Paradoxically, such visible practices and displays are deemed an anathema by governments and citizens, as threats to our (re: Western) basic institutions.
So, should you be worried about Muslims? By the woman in an abaya, the girl in the headscarf, or the man from Pakistan? By the convert, the children who don’t eat pork, or those named Muhammad? No.
What these individuals show us is that countries like the United States are still seen as places where the belief of individual liberty and freedom from persecution, despite our recent actions. Their mere presence within society is a redemption, not a downfall.
Instead, what you should be worried about are those who would seek to ignore, belittle, or outright restrict and deny their right to be who they are. Be alarmed at the deep hypocrisy of our practices, the depths of our historical amnesia, and the violence of our actions. That is the true threat we now face.