Another Year of Islamophobia

Praying and seeking Allah (God) is among the rare havens for me; a space to cry and bear my heavy heart. It brings me to a place of peace, where my soul can safely say: I refuse to ‘justify’ myself; I refuse to ‘respond’ to Islamophobic interrogations; my self-care is priority. This haven made me ponder how these struggles are reflected in the Earth, our collective home, because the Earth is constantly forced to justify why it deserves to exist in harmony without fear of extraction, exploitation, or extinction. Maisaloon Al- Askar, Fossil Free Faith.

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Photo by Desiree Wallace.

Thanks to Maisaloon Al-Ashkar, for this guest post on her struggles against Islamophobia. Maisaloon Al-Ashkar is a Fossil Free Faith member and young activist based in Vancouver РUnceded Coast Salish Territories.

Islamophobia. The buzzword of 2015, which at times seemed like a generic term thrown around to justify countless unjustifiable injustices. About a week ago, I saw on the news that the mosque my family often attends held a welcome event for refugees, and as attendees were heading out, a bigot pepper-sprayed them. A hateful act so close to home that rung in the new year, reminding me that the past year was surely neither the start nor end of the myriad of oppressions inflicted on beloveds in the name of Islamophobia.

My family immigrated to Canada in 2006, shortly after Stephen Harper was elected as prime minister. So, I’ve basically only known a Canada dominated by the Harper government’s ultra discriminatory policies and ideals that perpetuate colonial hegemony. As an 18-year-old during the 2015 federal election, I was innocently enthused by the idea of casting my ballot for the first time in hopes of participating in a mobilization that would finally vote-out Harper. Oppressive rhetoric quickly became rampant, from “barbaric cultural practices” to inhumane anti-refugee sentiments, my heart was overwhelmed. My faith and beloveds were being explicitly exploited and made into fear-mongering tools to entice hatred.

Across Canada, this bigotry amplified violence towards loved ones, and I witnessed as the people and communities who raised me became targets. Selective-grief that is founded upon racial profiling and Islamophobia was once again portrayed during the Paris attacks. Empathy that is reserved only for certain lives and places, and that further scapegoats marginalized peoples while remaining complicity silent in countless atrocities inflicted on billions of oppressed bodies, reminds me that beloveds and communities rooted in every bone of my body are among those billions excluded from humanity.

And in latest “trending” Islamophobia news, Donald Trump’s overtly racist platform promotes, among countless hate speeches, that Muslims should wear badges so that we could be identified and, ultimately, easily persecuted. Trump is neither an isolated incident nor a surprise; he’s an in-your-face embodiment of deeply rooted and ongoing systemic discrimination. With all that said, countless forms of oppression have been accumulating for so long, paving the way for the overt hatred that Trump (and many people, institutions, governments, etc) comfortably endorse. Islamophobia has become an accustomed-to status quo, allowing for heart-wrenching injustices to continue stacking-up. My soul is often left wondering how to cope.
Praying and seeking Allah (God) is among the rare havens for me; a space to cry and bear my heavy heart. It brings me to a place of peace, where my soul can safely say: I refuse to ‘justify’ myself; I refuse to ‘respond’ to Islamophobic interrogations; my self-care is priority. This haven made me ponder how these struggles are reflected in the Earth, our collective home, because the Earth is constantly forced to justify why it deserves to exist in harmony without fear of extraction, exploitation, or extinction. This haven made it a transformative year of deeper spiritual awareness, rooting me in the interconnections of radical ancestral, community and self love.

The compassion in every part of me was awakened, teaching me of the collective wellbeing that deeply intertwines me with the resilience of my communities and beloveds. I became more entrenched in my activism, impassioned from within my core and willing to embrace my vulnerability. Fossil Free Faith has been a pivotal vessel through which my compassionate fight for justice is holistically amplified, offering me with avenues to realize the strength I have in sharing from my heart. From speaking at We > Tar Sands: Jobs, Justice and the Climate in the summer for the first time as a representative from Fossil Free Faith, to guest-preaching at Knox United Church as an 18-year-old Muslim woman (I’d like to think I made history!), to raising my voice at the Global Climate March that was joined by thousands of attendees in Vancouver-Unceded Coast Salish Territories; 2015 was the year I began to spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically engage my activism in holistic ways of being.

In an ongoing context where every aspect of my identity is attacked; where my voice as a young Muslim woman and displaced Palestinian is deliberately deemed a controversy that must be silenced; where the beloveds and communities who nurture my growth are excluded from humanity. In this soul-burdening context, speaking and living my truth through honouring the beautifully resilient connections that keep my heart beating and embracing all of who I am in struggles for liberation — that is my most profound act of resistance. And for that, I am grateful.