Pause, Play, Rewind

On March 15th, 2019, I wake up to a New York Times notification on my phone: a white supremacist has opened fire during Friday prayers at a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand. My chest tightens. My eyes sting. Fifty people, of my people, have died. I’ve been here before. I don’t ask myself how could this happen because I have seen it happen, even in my home province, Quebec. I am stuck in an endless cycle of grieving.

“The believers in their mutual kindness, compassion and sympathy are just like one body. When one of the limbs suffers, the whole body responds to it with wakefulness and fever.”

Sahih Bukhari Book 1, Hadith 224

This quote from the Prophet’s hadiths echoes the pain that I constantly feel as a Muslim woman. Although I am not always perfectly practicing, I remain a part of this community, this one body. My mosque, my family, Iran — Islam is entrenched into every aspect of my being. So I grieved when a man shot and killed six worshippers at a mosque in Quebec City. I grieve when I hear of my people in Yemen, Myanmar, Palestine. Nearly every day, my body responds with wakefulness and fever. Nearly every day, my body suffers.

Tragedies can cause trauma even when a person isn’t present at the scene. There is a considerable emotional impact that results from receiving constant, intimate reports of violence. Reading the news makes me feel sad and anxious even if I’m not there, even if it’s not happening to me— a part of me is still being harmed, and it’s scary. It’s re-traumatizing to be inundated with notifications on your phone about people just like you being killed.

One comment that someone made in your 5th grade class about all Muslims being killers is amplified by a thousand in the violent actions of Islamophobes and white supremacists, and then by another thousand when people on the internet cheer it on. We saw it with Australian senator Fraser Anning blaming the shooting on Muslim immigration. We see it every day with the rise of Islamophobic hate crimes. Mosques are being vandalized, racist rhetoric is perpetuated by our politicians, and bills are put in place to further police Muslim populations and their bodies. Our daily lives are now an act of defiance. I don’t get to let any of this go because I see the small-scale things that happen to me mirrored on a larger scale in the tragedies that happen to people like me. Some people will post a patronizing Instagram story about how the people who were killed were “peaceful Muslims,” as if we are outside the norm, unlike those other violent Muslims.  They won’t reflect on their own assumptions, nor work on the harm they do, nor mobilize in any other way.

I am tired of living in a world that hates me. I am tired of how we don’t talk about how marginalized people’s mental health is affected by these acts of violence, of how even if we’re not present on the scene of acts of violence, these events still become part of our lived experiences. Everyone remembers where they were during 9/11. We have accepted it into our social narrative, the way I remember where I was when I got the news that a man killed six people at a mosque in Quebec. I remember how it felt too close to me, so close it could have been me. And I am reminded again and again and again when these things keep happening in different parts of the world. As a 20-year-old Muslim woman living in a world dominated by White Christianity, I don’t get to press pause.

My phone lights up, and I get that all too familiar feeling.  

For Mucaad, Naeem, Talha, Haji, Muhammad S., Husna, Khalid, Hamza, Khaled, Junaid, Mohsen, Areeb, Lilik, Muhammad E., Jahandad, Haroon, Amjad, Osama, Muhammad Shahid, Abdelfattah, Ali Mah’d, Kamel, Maheboob, Arif, Ramiz, Ansi, Ozair, Mounir, Ahmed, Ashraf R., Ashraf al-Masri, Matiullah, Muhammad R., Ghulam, Karam, Muse, Abdukadir, Hussein, Mohammed K, Sayyad, Atta, Linda, Daoud, Husna, Zeeshan. And all the others.

Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un.

For those who need it: