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Learning to Breathe


These days I’m unsettled.  I feel like we are on the cusp of a major change.  By ‘we’ I mean The World, The United States, Society as a Whole, Islam, My Family, Me.

My wise friend, Heather, tells us to breathe through the change but I’m scared of change.  I know it is inevitable, but the unknown is scary.  It is unsettling.  It is dumping everything in the cake pan and hoping it all turns out alright without following the recipe.

Breathing through the change is like trusting.  It is praying and it is letting go.

I’m not good with the letting go part.  When I get scared, I want more control.  Not less.

Last year, my family decided that we would attend the Friday night Varsity football games at Mr. Fox’s highschool.  We went to every home game last year, and we’ve gone once this year already.  We are not football fans.  I don’t know most of the rules.  I have only ever watched two football games each year my entire adult life.  I only watch them so that I can talk about it when everyone else who is a football fan is talking about them.  To me, its a cultural event.  Like Halloween, or Thanksgiving.

On September 4, we lined up to get our tickets at the season opening home game.  Directly in front of us was a man wearing this shirt.

My immediate reaction, was FEAR.  I looked at my people.  We all look like we blend in.  We are, for all intents and purposes, a suburban, white family.  Nothing we were wearing was overtly identifying.

I was SCARED.  Mr. Fox was annoyed.  Kate grabbed my hand a little tighter.  Pea gave the man’s back a dirty look.  I looked around and there were no less than 5 police officers on duty.  No one else looked scared.  I didn’t know what I should do.

On one hand, the man has his First Amendment rights.  But we are on school property.  This is an event for children.  We are at a school with a significant number of Muslim students who are actively involved in sports as well as other activities.

I took the man’s photo without his consent.  I wanted to document this event because I couldn’t sort out if my reaction was warranted.  Was I overreacting?  Is it just a shirt?

Then the man sat down the bleachers in front of us and I took another photo of his shirt from where we were sitting.  During the first quarter of the game I counted no less than 8 Muslim students in the stands from where I was sitting.  3 were wearing hijab.

So, I shared the photo.  I didn’t offer any explanation at first.  Just the photo and “as seen at tonight’s game.”

These were some of the first comments:

Unlike · Reply · 2 · September 4 at 7:13pm
Unlike · Reply · 1 · September 4 at 7:14pm
Oh, fantastic. Ugh.
Unlike · Reply · 1 · September 4 at 7:17pm

Wow. What school is this

Like · Reply · September 4 at 7:20pm

Kristina ElSayed It’s his right to wear it, but it’s just really unsettling.
Like · Reply · 1 · September 4 at 7:22pm

The discussion went on from there, most people understood my outrage and fear.  A few did not.  I don’t love these friends any less, but it is clear that they don’t understand the fear that comes from this type of racism.  They didn’t want me to presume what this man thought about Islam, Muslims and what the word ‘kafir’ and ‘infidel.’  They wanted me to give this man the benefit of the doubt.  But I know.  We had just been discussing these shirts and the meaning of them a few weeks before.  I was educating people about these shirts.  I KNOW.

I waited a week and then made contact with the school.  The response has been less than stellar.  I received a cursory email from the Assistant Principal, and I’ve not heard back despite my follow up.  What do I want from the school?  I want to know if spectators to events on school property are to abide by the district dress code.  I want to know if I have a right to complain about this when it shows up at a school event.  What are my choices?

Then the news of Ahmed Mohamed being arrested.  It is clear to everyone that his detainment has nothing to do with his invention and everything to do with the fact that he is Muslim and Black.  My network was talking about it all day long.  I waited and spoke with the children a little when they got home.  Did they hear about his arrest?  What were people saying at school?

Kate cried.  She is scared that she could get arrested just because of her religion.

Can you even remotely begin to hear that?

She is afraid of being arrested because of the way she prays.

Today is the Day of Arafat.  It is one of the holiest days of the Islamic year.  It is the day that marks the remembrance of The Prophet Muhammed’s final sermon.  When all of the pilgrims are praying at Arafat, Muslims all over the world are fasting.  My children are fasting today at school.

Will they be okay?

Tomorrow is the Eid ul Adha. The Feast of the Sacrifice.  All of the Muslims in my city and the surrounding area will gather in one place.  One Huge Celebration.  We will gather, we will hear a sermon and we will all pray together.  Then we will eat together and share in the celebration that 2 million Muslims have completed their Hajj.  There will be security at all the entrances, but will we be safe to pray and celebrate this day?

When radical men in sheep’s clothing enter churches to kill people because of the color of their skin, how are we to feel safe that the same won’t happen to us?

On the day that Abraham trusted his Lord to sacrifice his son, I will breathe, I will pray, and I will hand it over to God. I am not in control of the unknown.

Links on some of the research I did concerning this topic:

7 Comments leave one →
  1. 09/23/2015 11:41 AM

    I don’t really know what to say about this…I am so appalled, on so many levels, that it is hard to know where to begin. It is scary.

  2. Heather permalink
    09/24/2015 12:11 AM

    You have company while you breathe. Not having to do it alone helps.

  3. Brandon Brooks permalink
    09/25/2015 1:10 PM

    Untwist your knickers, and put on your big boy pants. If the worst thing going on around you is the words on some fat guys shirt, it’s a good day. For the sort time I lived in a predominantly Muslim country, I was regularly called a kafir. I didn’t freak out. I saw lots of violence, mostly different kinds of Muslims, killing other kinds. I didn’t freak out. I was in dangerous situations, armed, and confronting equally armed people. I didn’t freak out. You saw a guy with a shirt. Dont freak out. Nothing to worry about, till there’s something to worry about. You’ll know those times, because everyone will be freaking out.

  4. Sia permalink
    12/14/2015 4:05 PM

    Ahmed was arrested because he brought a clock to school that he had taken apart and then put together in a case to look like a bomb. He then refused to tell the police what it was and why he brought it to school. He was not arrested because he was muslim, but because what he did was illegal. They dropped the charges because he was muslim and no one wants to be accused of islamophobia.

    Now his family is trying to sue the school district for 15 million dollars. People know this was a planned sham to make people uncomfortable contacting the police if they see something suspicious, they fear the backlash the mayor got and they fear being sued. The lawsuit is nonsense, as anyone entering a school building with an object that looks like a bomb would be arrested.

    Your children worry that they will get arrested because they are muslim? In muslim run countries my children would be killed. My children worry that we will get blown up or shot if we go to the mall, thanks to “radicalized” muslims.

    Every time a “radical” muslim kills a bunch of people, muslims around the country start moaning about islamophobia. People have lost sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, friends and family members to sensless violence and muslims are worried that someone migh say something mean to them? We are all so so sick of the “poor me, muslim victim” nonsense.

    This is America, we have free speech here, you cannot dictate what people say or wear. The principal did the right thing by ignoring you, your complaint is without merit. Suck it up, and if you don’t like it you are free to leave.


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