From Names to Action
Once, I had the opportunity to change my last name. My first name raises no flags in Canada. My last name shows that I come from the people who lived in Medina in the time of the Prophet (PBUH). This, along with my mother’s last name, which outs me as a descendant of a Caliph, makes me more Muslim than people may realize.
I have just once regretted keeping my name, that marker of how Muslim I am, when a client at work insinuated that Muslims, in his opinion, were killers and rapists. This client was a visible minority as well, and he said this to me, to goad me into proving that my hot temper was indicative of my bad genes. This client said this to me within earshot of another colleague, who was white and said nothing. I focused on my design drawings, which was the reason this client was talking to me, in hopes that once we finished our work, I would never have speak with him again. I wondered, if I wasn’t an Ansari, would he still have found me out? Would my children have this same awkward interaction twenty years in the future? And where does this Islamophobia lead do, if no one says anything?
I was deep in mourning those days; my father had recently passed away, and my grief splintered the intention with which I approach my life. I am still processing burying my father in the soil of a country where his family cannot easily come to visit his remains. Grief in isolation is the inheritance of an immigrant.
I blame my own lack of action, of doing nothing in that moment except for wishing to disappear, on the mindset I was in while I worked through my Loss. Later, I mentioned the conversation lightly to my colleague, and he thought it wasn’t a big deal.
Islamophobia is a big deal. To say and do nothing, to allow space for people who spread hate is randomly lethal to my brethren. New Zealand is not so different from Canada, from Quebec City, from the Skytrain I take home every day. Xenophobia is never too far away.
As a public person, I’ve made my peace with knowing that my name is out there and so is the hate, and one day the two might find each other in a conflict that plays out against my favour. I’ve made peace with it, knowing that if I say nothing and do nothing one more time, I will be part of the complacency that can lead to these events.
I will not cower in the back, hiding behind other names, hiding behind other heritages.
I will continue my work to highlight what a Muslim woman is within my community.
I will continue showing the world, we are here, we do meaningful work and we are members of your community too.
I will do my share, and I ask that you do yours, to dismantle Islamophobia, xenophobia, colonialism and racism in whatever means and forms that you can in your lives.
Please. And thank you.