With all these horrific Islamophobic things happening in America, I’ve been trying to see my own inner Islamophobia more clearly.
You know how it sounds when someone says, “I have a black friend/boyfriend/partner,” and are saying in parenthesis, “So I can’t be racist,”… how racist that sounds… how racist it is? It is the same with my making loud declarations of having a Muslim friend. I am clearly professing, “See me? I’m not Islamophobic, but I am a really progressive liberal atheist who can sidle up to a person that much of the world wants to destroy,” making it All About Me.
I find that really disgusting.
I know very little about Islam and discussing it with my friend has taken us into really uncomfortable territory. We’ve pretty much abandoned the topic because my atheism is so contrary to his deep beliefs. I have Googled and read about Islam, sharia law, the different ways to be Muslim, Islam in the United States versus in mainly-Muslim countries and, the really tough part, Islamic extremists and why violence is so important to their causes.
Islam is an incredibly complex and varied religion, much more so than Christianity or Judaism, both religions I know and understand pretty well, having been both in this life. I’ve been told that it can take many years and a plethora of scholars to explain the Qur’an. How does a heathen learn about Islam when it is such a pain in the ass to understand?
Just looking up “Moderate vs. Radical Islam” images for this piece brings intense emotions for me because the hate in the photos and comics are so, so despicable. (Is my friend considered a moderate? A liberal?) I don’t even know what to believe anymore. Is Islam a cruel religion that does not delineate between a Muslim here or in Syria? Are all American Muslims really potential terrorists given the right circumstances and their anger level at how they are treated by Americans? (This is, I have found, one of the most common beliefs and it is excruciating for me to even utter it because I know how my friend is going to hear it.)
For fuck’s sake, how brainwashed am I? Where did it come from? Islam is a brand new experience in my life comparatively. The horrible things I’ve learned have all been based on violence against others… against the LGBTQIA+ communities, women, American journalists, random strangers who’ve made life difficult for the killers… really skewed pictures and stories that have clearly imprinted in my mind.
How do I counter these negative beliefs? I am not sure where exactly to look because the information on the Internet is widely contradictory and, I have learned, laced with radical ideas the murderers use to recruit marginalized Muslims. When I’ve asked my friend for help, things devolve into major discomfort so we just agree to let the topic go.
I’m lost, but I don’t want to be anymore.