Born Muslim, raised American

Off the Beat

Ismael Farooqui

I don’t remember how young I was the first time my father took me walking in the park. I know I was old enough to remember what he said. With the beat of each footstep, he’d recite a word, until our steps became verses and our miles became surahs. I used to whisper it back to him beneath the cover of the whistling trees above us. You see, I was embarrassed by the sound of Arabic. When someone approached us along the path, my voice grew softer and I called on the bristling bushes or the barking dog to take me beyond their gaze.

I don’t remember how young I was the first time I went to a mosque. Well, actually, it wasn’t a mosque — it was an Italian center that rented out its large banquet hall. Still, I loved visiting. Adjacent to the parking lot into which we entered were rows of tennis courts. At that age, I’d much rather be chasing a yellow ball than doing pretty much anything else. But instead of the white tennis outfits, I was dressed in what might be called a tunic of pale blue threading. And my prayer cap offered no brim for the sun. When we’d go for donuts after — and we always did — I was embarrassed by how I was dressed.

I don’t remember how young I was the first time someone mispronounced my name. I do remember wanting a different name. I wanted something that sounded American. When someone mistakenly inserted an “h” into my name, my wish was granted. I went from Ismael to Ishmael. With the addition of a single, usually silent consonant, I gained namesakes from the Bible and the American canon. I had a lineage, and I was not embarrassed anymore.

Unfortunately, I do remember when the president of the United States retweeted three videos from a proudly Islamophobic group in the United Kingdom. Two of these videos weren’t even captioned accurately — one of them didn’t have any Muslims in it. You’d think a group dedicated to hate would do a better job at it. But you shouldn’t expect much tech savviness from people stuck in the old days of Britannia.

What shocked me about the president’s actions was that it presented ordinary Muslims as a threat. This was beyond “radical Islamic terrorists” — the administration’s favorite tripartite. As White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders clarified to CBS: “Whether it’s a real video, the threat is real.” She followed that comment up with talk of “national security.” So did that threat include me?

This all sounded absurd to me. I was a minority in America — my faith seemed to signify weakness rather than power.

But then I would think of the string of attacks around the world: Lower Manhattan, Boston, Orlando, London and Nice. I understand the shadow hanging over us and the fear it creates. Even I can be afraid too.

Fear is a powerful motivator. When Martin Luther was famously caught in a thunderstorm, fear of death compelled him to beg St. Anne to spare his life so that he could devote it to God. If that sounds like an overreaction, remember Luther was in law school — those were tense times.

Fear has also been a political tool since the days nobles could prod peasants into battle by the end of a lance. Today, fear is the No. 1 asset of the current administration. You might say the business-minded Donald Trump has monopolized fear. Slowly, he injects it into the market, directing it towards one group or another.

When he retweeted the videos Nov. 29, he directed it towards Muslims. We are only 1 percent of the population in this country — hardly a powerful voting bloc. This makes us an easy target for abuse and suspicion as long as terrorism remains in recent memory.

Even though my faith feels energized the more people attack it, I’m not just a Muslim. Which Americans are just one thing? What Trump misunderstands is the durability of the old melting pot. America succeeds in incorporating difference. I seek no other home.

The park I walked in with my father loops around the football fields where I used to play, and it loops around the track that I used to run. It loops around the high school where several times my friends made me fall out of a chair laughing.

That Italian center wasn’t just for prayers — it became the site for summer cookouts and even my friend’s bar mitzvah.

And as for my name, well, I’ve met quite a few people who like it as is.

Even when I’m abroad, the heirloom I brought from home was a beat-up copy of Robert Frost — not a Quran. As a child, I thought he roamed near our property formulating his poetry. The New England of his imagination is but one gift America has given me. And I hope to give back to my country the gifts of my father’s faith, long after this president.

“Off the Beat” columns are written by Daily Cal staff members until the spring semester’s regular opinion writers have been selected. Contact the opinion desk at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter @dailycalopinion.

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  • garyfouse

    I don’t wish to see innocent American Muslims be discriminated against because of what others are doing, but I think the writer must come to grips with the fact that aside from the horrific terrorism being carried out in the name of Allah, in virtually every Muslim majority country in the world non-Muslims are being badly persecuted. Nowhere do I hear the voices of American Muslims denouncing this persecution.

  • s randall

    Trump will do anything gain support for his political agenda. Attacking football players not standing for the Anthem, supporting white supremacists, supporting a pedophile running for office, and bashing Muslims are all just more ways to win for Trump.

    Hang in there.

  • taxpayer22

    On Terror Attacks : Never hear ‘Merry Christmas,’ only ‘Allahu Akbar’.. (Muslims think that Satan is greater than God )…

    • Jacob

      Liar

      • lspanker

        I have to laugh when people who insist that the Jews have no historical or cultural claim on Jerusalem, call OTHER people “liars”. The mass destruction of Buddhist, Christian and Jewish structures and artifacts wherever fruitcake militant Muslims take over is simply an example of the type of lie the Muslim theorcrats make in their attempt to rewrite history…

        • Jacob

          You are the one allowing the “theocrats” to rewrite history as they please. You realize ISIS wants a civilizational clash, right? They want an East v. West, America v. Islam, conflict to arise. Stop helping them

          • lspanker

            You make absolutely no sense…

          • Jacob

            What precisely is unclear? ISIS and their ilk are trying to persuade moderate Muslims that the West despises them, wants to make war on them, and that, as a consequence, they should radicalize and strike first. When you spout off about the evils of Islam and allow the radicals to represent the majority, you support that narrative.

            It’s a few more steps than “America good, Islam bad, must smash” but I trust you can figure it out

          • lspanker

            For one, I didn’t “spout off about the evils of Islam”, that’s your hypersensitive projection. I made two valid points that you can’t deal with, (1) Muslims have a significantly higher likelihood of being terrorists than any other religious group (that’s a statistical fact), and (2) many people see so-called “moderate Muslims” as more likely to make excuses for their brethren than face up to the fact that in their perceived silence they are viewed as being complicit, or at least intimidated by the radicals. Where are your equivalents of, say the Patriot Riders who show up en masse as counter-protesters when the Westboro Baptist Church loonies show up with their disgusting “G_d hates f*gs” posters at soldier’s funerals? Where are you militant muslims outing and protesting against these militant madrassas and maschids spewing hatred? Or maybe you’re too intimidated by some of your co-religionists?

          • Jacob

            First, I’m a Lutheran and was raised, like the numerous Muslims who went to my high school, to respect differences and not judge a group for the actions of its most extreme members. You seem to have missed that lesson.

            To point one, really? What about state sponsored terror? I’d say that the genocide carried out by the majority against the rohingya is a blip on that map

            To point 2: where is your proof? Show me American Muslims like the author doing this. Don’t show me one or two: show me a group

          • lspanker

            First, I’m a Lutheran and was raised, like the numerous Muslims who went to my high school, to respect differences and not judge a group for the actions of its most extreme members. You seem to have missed that lesson.

            Fact of life is when we’re concerned for our health and safety, we often make judgments based not on the behavior of a group as a whole, but based on the most probable behavior of its most extreme members, because those are the ones most likely to affect us. For example, there are plenty of goody-goody liberals who will insist that they aren’t racists, but won’t walk down a dark street alone at night if there are young black males hanging around. Is that because they believe that the majority of young black men are a problem? Of course not, it’s because they are concerned about the possible repercussions of an extreme minority, which would far outweigh the benefit of associating with the majority. The same is in effect with people’s concerns about immigration from Muslim countries, given the disproportionate problems there. Now, you can scold and lecture people all you want, and call them “hateful” and “ignorant” when you can’t win them over to your point of view, but is it really going to change their minds? Probably not… because their own sense of self-preservation matters far more than your personal indignation. Learn to live with it…

          • Jacob

            The fact that extremists exist does not excuse us from entering into dialogue with those who are not extreme. It does not give us the right to judge an entire group or hold them responsible for the actions of a few. People who make that error are, yes, ignorant, and they unwittingly fuel the arguments and actions of extremists. They prevent dialogue and help ensure that conflicts will continue for decades into the future. It is sad.

            I am not saying that no precautions should be taken against extremists, but walling oneself off from an entire religion (by, for example, banning muslim immigration) only inflames tensions and hatreds on all sides. We will not end these conflicts until we learn to think with the rational side of our brains, not just our amygdalae.

          • lspanker

            The fact that extremists exist does not excuse us from entering into dialogue with those who are not extreme. It does not give us the right to judge an entire group or hold them responsible for the actions of a few.

            I see the cognitive dissonance is quite strong with you. Please explain what’s going on when some Bangladeshi cab driver gets whipped up into hysteria about events in Jerusalem and sets off a bomb in NYC. Is that not the same collective punishment, and on a far more extreme scale, that you are scolding us over here?

          • Jacob

            Ever hear the phrase “two wrongs don’t make a right?” Aren’t we supposed to be better than the extremists?

          • SecludedCompoundTTYS

            Just a quick question: Why do you think ISIS was created and what US policies/actions led to the rise of ISIS?

          • Jacob

            To the best of my knowledge, ISIS is a splinter group from Al Qaeda that arose during a power vacuum created due to the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the Civil War in Syria. It absorbed disaffected members of the Assad regime and created a shadow state and shadow military. I do not think one specific U.S. action “created” it. I think it arose due to a confluence of factors, including preexisting regional instability, U.S. invasion of Iraq, the Syrian Civil War. Its rise was likely accelerated by the reduction in troop levels in Iraq.

          • SecludedCompoundTTYS

            I agree with your last sentence. Those are the reasons, touche!~!~! Happy FRIDAY!

  • taxpayer22

    Muslim Mayor of London tells Citizens to get used to Terrorism.

    • Jacob

      …and this is out of context. He was encouraging people to be steadfast in the face of the threat of future attacks. Unlike you, he sought to alleviate rather than stoke fears

      • California Defender

        No, he wasn’t urging people to be steadfast. He was urging people to be vigilant, but accepting, of Islamic terrorism. Because people getting run over on the London Bridge is now “part and parcel of living in a big city.” It’s normal like daily traffic jams on the A2.

        What Sadiq didn’t address is WHY he wants people to see it as normal. And the answer is the same as to why he was elected mayor.

        • Jacob

          he didn’t urge anyone to be “accepting” of terrorism. To say he did merely twists his words, it’s pure sophistry. He is right. Dealing/coping with attacks and crime (of a terroristic and non terroristic variety) is part of life in a big city. That doesn’t mean you stop fighting against against terrorism, any more than the fact that dangerous driving occurs means you stop arresting speeders and drunk drivers. However, “accepting” that terror attacks sometimes happen does mean you don’t allow it them to shock your city’s social fabric. Khan is trying to deny the terrorists the effect they seek to cause. He is telling people not to be afraid and to laugh in the face of those trying to scare them. He’s just as supportive of police actions against terrorism as any other mayor–he was at a police event today actually. in fact, police are better able to handle crises when they do occur if people are calm and not freaking out

          • California Defender

            Saying that terrorism is “part and parcel of living in a big city” is undeniably a statement of acceptance.

            Terrorism should NEVER be a part of living in a big city or a small town. It is entirely unacceptable in any civilized nation. Do you disagree with that?

            Sadiq does. He precisely wants the British people (and the West as a whole) to ignore the incidents or perhaps laugh about it, as you bizarrely said. His real intention is desensitization, not assisting police (now THAT is laughable) who are already hamstrung by leftist policies.

            A desensitized population is less reactive and more submissive.

          • Jacob

            Now this is outright conspiratorial. It’s not my fault if you’re misreading him to feed some odd notion you have about Muslims/politicians/whoever trying to hamstring police in support of what, Sharia law? Go look up the term “confirmation bias”

            And mocking something evil is a tried and true tactic of good people. Charlie Chaplin did it to Hitler. It doesn’t desensitize us; it gives us courage to face evil.

          • California Defender

            Misreading? Terrorism is part and parcel of living in a big city. I don’t need to explain the statement for the meaning to be CLEARLY understood. It is the left that is trying to explain his statement.

            And if you don’t know how police have been hamstrung, you have clearly never been to Europe. But I do like your reductio ad Hitlerum. I’ll counter it with another Charlie who mocked evil…

            Hebdo.

            And yet the French remain desensitized.

  • lspanker

    I see the children at the Daily Cal are back to removing posts that introduce uncomfortable facts of reality into the discussion… FWIW, I didn’t create the mistrust and cynicism regarding Muslim immigrants in this country, and it’s not going to go away because you deleted something for which you don’t want to hear but are incapable of offering any type of reasoned rebuttal…

  • Man with Axe

    Tell me if you do the same thing that I, and probably most Americans do: When someone tells me that there has been a terror attack like the one in New York yesterday I ask, “Was it a Muslim?” The answer is almost always yes.

    • Jacob

      I do, but mostly because I’m dreading the inevitable wave of insults that the vast, vast majority of decent Muslims will have to endure. People who do what that man in NYC did are extremists, who are trying to turn Muslims against non-Muslims and vice-versa. We shouldn’t let them succeed.

      • SecludedCompoundTTYS

        Why are the good Muslims not standing up against these radicals? It appears the media/you are trying to act like terrorist Muslims don’t exist.

        • Jacob

          Absolutely no one said that terrorist Muslims don’t exist. Terrorists of many ideological and religious stripes exist. There are Muslims all across the country who stand up to them. There are imams who teach peace, Muslim parents who raise their children to be good citizens and Muslims who join our police and military to literally fight terrorism.

          If anything the media lavished attention on Muslim terrorists, which, by the way, is extremely foolish. Terrorists crave attention for their cruel cause. Let’s quit indulging them

          • lspanker

            Would you be happy if the media concentrated on Swedish or Japanese terrorists instead? Name a couple so we can steer them in the right direction…

          • Jacob

            You miss my point. The media shouldn’t focus on terrorists at all. Report the attack, denounce the attacker, mourn the dead, move on. Don’t give evil men a platform to spread their vile messages.

            And there are absolutely terrorists of other ideologies. There was the attack in Charlottesville by a right wing, American. There was another right wing attack in Norway a few years back (I forget the man’s name, but he was some kind of fasco-anarchist). There are left wing terrorists (guerrillas) in South America. Terrorism is not a Muslim problem; it’s a human problem, and it often aims to inflame ethnic or religious hatred. Don’t buy in to its narrative.

          • lspanker

            You miss my point. The media shouldn’t focus on terrorists at all.

            So they should just ignore it because it makes you angry, correct?

            There was the attack in Charlottesville by a right wing, American. There was another right wing attack in Norway a few years back (I forget the man’s name, but he was some kind of fasco-anarchist).

            A couple of loons that were denounced by 99.999% of the general population who made it clear that in NO way, shape, or form, those individuals represented their religion or philosophy. OTOH, when was the last time there was a mass demonstration of Muslims against terrorism?

          • Jacob

            How about the Iraqis fighting to drive Isis out of their country? Enough of a mass demonstration for you?

            And to your first point, just keep adding fuel to the conflicts in the world if that gets you off. Some of us prefer to find ways to heal old hatreds and attack the root causes of terrorism rather than play into us vs. them narratives.

            Stop playing the fool

            And to your first “point” (a generous term for what you wrote), yes, it makes me angry when terrorists get what they want because our media knows that terrorist attacks bring them good ratings

          • lspanker

            How about the Iraqis fighting to drive Isis out of their country?

            Oh, I have the utmost respect for the present Iraqi soldiers as well as the Kurds. I just get tired of having to read crybabies like you whining about how you’re treated so unfairly, boo-f**king hoo.

          • Jacob

            You’re quite pathetic, you know that? Take your hatred elsewhere.

          • lspanker

            Not hatred whatsoever. I’m not the one running around calling for death to people who don’t share my political reviews. I do believe in the concept of freedom of speech, as it’s a great disinfectant against loony ideas. Maybe that’s a cultural issue yoiu can’t deal with?

          • Jacob

            I believe in it as well. That’s why I’m responding to your loony idea that all Muslims are responsible for the violence of ISIS and other extremists

          • lspanker

            I never said that. Perhaps you have a reading comprehension problem?

          • Jacob

            Okay, fine. it was slavery, not violence, if you want to be technical. You wrote that Islam can be blamed for slavery. Perhaps you have a memory problem?

          • lspanker

            The Arabs promoted the slave trade well before Europeans were ever involved in it, and to this say slavery still occurs in some Muslim controlled areas. Do you deny that?

          • Jacob

            1) Europeans and Arabs both participated in the slave trade. Or is widespread serfdom somehow superior?
            2) there is an illegal slave trade in the Christian West and in Hindu India too. There is one in Thailand, and there is one in secular China. North Koreans are effectively slaves.

            Slavery is not an Islamic problem. It’s a human one.

      • taxpayer22

        Why do Muslims not speak out against slavery?

        • Jacob

          They do. Muslims are the ones leading the fight against ISIS and other extremists. Iraqi soldiers are fighting to save Yazidis. Muslims work on interfaith councils just like Christians and Jews. Muslim countries ban slavery just like Western ones. You can’t blame Islam for slavery any more than you can blame Christianity for it. Evil people and slave owners profess belief in both religions. They are hypocrites in both cases.

          • lspanker

            You can’t blame Islam for slavery any more than you can blame Christianity for it.

            Yes we can, especially when Muslim groups rationalize it as Koran-sponsored subjugation for being non-believers, and groups such as ISIS and Boko Haram accept it as part of their doctrine.

          • Jacob

            The Lord’s Resistance Army uses Christianity to rationalize the use of child soldiers. Does that make Christianity responsible for the use of child soldiers? Not in my view. Boko Haram and ISIS are fringe, extremist groups that do not represent Islam as a whole.

          • lspanker

            The Lord’s Resistance Army uses Christianity to rationalize the use of child soldiers.

            Name one mainstream Christian individual or groups that supports or condones their actions, and who would have any objections if a JDAM falling from an F-16 were to eliminate their presence from the face of the planet. Go ahead…

          • Jacob

            That’s my point. Mainstream Christians oppose the LRA. Mainstream Muslims oppose ISIS and Boko Haram. So go ahead, paint with whatever broad brush you like, but you’re smearing millions of good people, brave people who fought and died to stop these groups.

          • lspanker

            If you’re so concerned about militant Islam as you insist you are, how come you people spend more time supporting nutcakes like the Palestinians instead of true freedom fighters like the Kurds?

          • Jacob

            I do support the Kurds. The Rojava are also a great group. And newsflash, Kurds are majority Muslim

          • lspanker

            I’m quite aware of it, having spent time in the Middle East. Have you ever been there?

          • Jacob

            No, but I grew up with plenty of Muslims, who are decent, honest, tolerant people. They don’t deserve to be blamed for the actions of ISIS anymore than you deserve to be blamed for the actions of the Charlottesville murderer.

          • SecludedCompoundTTYS

            Are you comparing American Muslims (assimilated) to those in the middle east???

          • Jacob

            No, I am saying it is wrong to hold all Muslims responsible for the actions of an extreme group. I do not hold all white people responsible for the actions of the KKK, and I do not hold all Muslims responsible for ISIS

          • lspanker

            No, but I grew up with plenty of Muslims

            I spent time in the middle east, including working in Israel and traveling through Judea and Samaria, which we know here as the Palestinian West Bank. FWIW, I also have family members who were born in Lebanon. Ever suppose that my insights and opinions on this subject might not be based on “hatred” or “ignorance”, but on first-hand experience?

          • Jacob

            There is absolutely no reason that hatred cannot be grounded in experience. That type of hatred is the most difficult to overcome. So you are right, I do not know what experiences motivate you. Perhaps you have seen suffering at the hands of Muslim extremists or suffered yourself, and I am deeply sorry if you have. However, it does not change the fact that extremism–and not Islam or “all Muslims”– bears the responsibility for that suffering.

          • lspanker

            There is absolutely no reason that hatred cannot be grounded in experience. That type of hatred is the most difficult to overcome.

            The problem you can’t get through your skull is that I don’t hate people for being Muslim. I’m merely pointing out that what you call “Islamophobia” and “hatred” is simply individuals acting on the best information that have and looking out for their own self-preservation. If one group is statistically more likely to cause us great bodily harm than another, why wouldn’t we naturally have some concern over that same group? That’s a self-preservation instinct kicking in…

          • Jacob

            In that case, I would expect all of those people terribly concerned about Islamic terror to be in an absolute furor over gun violence. We should try ostracizing gun owners and anyone who doesn’t confront people who want to arm themselves. Gun violence causes many, many times the death that terrorism does every year. Let’s write comments about how people who support the NRA are complicity condoning “nutcakes” who commit gun violence.

          • lspanker

            The vast majority of gun violence is committed by people for whom it is already illegal to have a gun. Unlike naive, clueless liberals, the NRA realizes that passing more laws against gun ownership isn’t going to change the behavior of people already breaking the law, and that such laws will in most cases only affect law-abiding citizens. The NRA supports enforcement of most existing gun laws and stronger punishments for those who use guns in the commission of a crime. It’s a far more reasonable position than the idiot goo-goos who think guns crimes, not people.

          • Jacob

            But why don’t they speak out? I don’t see NRA members doing mass protests for every mass shooting, so they must condone the violence. Instead they make excuses about how the gun isn’t the problem.this is how you reason about Muslims

            As long as the moderate gun owners don’t contain the crazy ones, let’s just condemn all the gun owners. Self preservation and whatnot

  • lspanker

    We are only 1 percent of the population in this country — hardly a powerful voting bloc. This makes us an easy target for abuse and suspicion as long as terrorism remains in recent memory.

    And as long as certain co-religionists of yours, such as the Bagladeshi cab driver, think the solution to their problems is building bombs and killing people, and the rest of you so-called “moderate Muslims” don’t step up to the plate and do more to let the world know you disapprove of their actions, expect more of the same.