It’s been a bad week for humanity.
Note, it hasn’t been a bad week for Muslims. Or Chechens. Or Indians, or Palestinians, or generally anyone of any minority group. None of these groups did anything wrong. Nor should they harbour guilt for anything that any one or two individuals did, who may or may not share some distant sense of cultural or religious identity with them.
The sad thing is, Muslims do feel guilty. Three of my friends confessed this feeling to me in the past week on separate occasions. As if we should somehow feel bad that someone who identifies as Muslim did some terrible, heinous things that would never be condoned by any religion. As if it’s somehow our fault that two kids with God knows what kind of upbringing, history, trauma, abuse, or sick psychology they’ve grown up with, and that somehow we’re accountable for that. As if somehow, my beautiful, amazing, beneficent religion is accountable for that. Bull.
It is either a strangely terrifying or strangely beautiful coincidence that on Monday at noon, the day of the Boston marathon bombings, I gave a presentation to my classmates about what Islam really is, and what it really isn’t. I advised them not to believe everything they hear, to ask real Muslim sources for answers to their questions, and to not cave into the fear-mongering that currently surrounds the North American climate. I had no idea that literally as I spoke, bombs were being blown up and newscasters had already begun to paint the suspect as a “dark-skinned Arab male.”
I’ve had a few conversations with my classmates about the issue, and several about Islam in general after my talk. It makes me excited to think I may single-handedly be responsible for changing some of my classmates’ opinions of Islam in a good way (well let’s hope it’s in a good way!). It makes me sad to think we live in a world where this is necessary, where individual Muslims have to fight against tide of everyday bombardment of misinformation and racialising and profiling. But that’s okay, you know. Because that’s our jihad*. And in Islam, the reward is commensurate with the struggle.
*Jihad: “to struggle”; inner struggle by a believer to fulfill his religious duties; split into a “greater” and a “smaller” type; the armed-struggle version of holy war is considered “the little jihad,” while the spiritual, individual version of holy war–the war within oneself–is considered “the great jihad.”