Saturday, December 5, 2015

The Worst Kind of Terrorists


I vacillated about whether or not I should make this entry, as I try to keep this space as apolitical as possible for one thing, and for another, I don't like to write stream-of-consciousness pieces for something that I could research and on which I could write a proper dissertation.

And I feel that way for most political topics, current events, news, etc.

But I've been sitting back these last couple of days since the San Bernardino terrorist attack, watching people stew and seep, boil and burn, cry and fret about what this country is coming to, what it all means, whether this is terrorism or not, what terrorism is.

I've seen fellow Muslims hesitate to call this terrorism, wish (as we all do) that it's not terrorism--by which we mean, we wish it's not someone carrying out an attack in the name of our religion.

But those same people, just days before with the Colorado Springs shooting, hastened to call that shooter a terrorist--and he is. And that was a terrorist attack.

As of December 2, we had 355 mass shootings in this country, more than days we've had in this year so far. Many of them, if not all of them, I consider to be acts of terror. For me, terrorism is simple--acts of violence aimed at killing and maiming multiple people and to, in general, cause chaos within communities and societies.

For state purposes, terrorism is often defined as such violent acts that have a political, religious or ideological significance or, by some definitions, are carried out in affiliation with larger organizations.

And this is why, if I am as diplomatic as I can be, Muslim mass murderers are labeled as terrorists and lone-wolf white mass murderers are not.

The question of affiliation with larger organizations is one for another time. For example, how loosely does a white mass murderer have to be affiliated to, say, a white supremacist group before being considered a terrorist because of this affiliation?

Again, I consider all mass murders terrorists by my definition, so this is moot to me.

But, if what we have been told about the shooters in San Bernardino is true, then they are the worst kind of terrorists I have ever seen. It is absolutely horrifying. The flagrant disregard for human life, the indiscriminant killing of men and women of all ages, the mundane venue--a company holiday party at a rented space in a social services building.

How many of us have gone to our company's holiday parties, hackneyed Christmas classics playing softly in the background, people milling around, nibbling on dessert for too long and being embarrassed for someone who got uncharacteristically drunk and loud? Can you imagine going there and dying? Can you imagine the people around you dropping dead? How terrible!

Each story is heartbreaking. Understatement.

That, of course, makes me the most sad and the most angry.

What also makes me angry is that, because of these devils, the moderate Muslim defense doesn't exist anymore.

What do I mean by that? The perpetrators seemed like--and perhaps, for a good while, were--the "moderate Muslim" archetype. Professionals, integrated into their community, seemingly responsible citizens, married with a baby. And then, they spontaneously radicalized.

It's insidious. It reminds me of what family members and friends of the Paris assailants said, that six months prior to the attacks, they stopped drinking and started praying.

Prayer now seems a sinister act...

...though, I guess it always could be.

Muslims are being stopped in subways by passengers believing their laptops are bombs. People in town halls blurt out that "all Muslims are terrorists." A Sikh woman on a Delta flight is made to show her breast pump so a wary passenger is at ease that she is not carrying a bomb. People are being put off flights for speaking Arabic or being visibly Muslim.

Being Muslim right now is different than it was post 9/11. Post 9/11, there was an unspoken other. We were American Muslims. We had no ties to these radical groups in the East "jumping through flaming hoola-hoops," as my mother once put it. And their targets were big and symbolic. I remember, as the 16-year-old I was in 2001, scoffing at the security measures at local stadiums. I cried when I was made to throw away my purse at a game. "Why would terrorists want to attack a college football game?" Why would they target Nowheresville, USA? And for years, that remained true, and I felt justified at dismissing some of the lingering fears as Michael Moore did, as a white American culture of fear.

I think the fear is legitimate now. Conspiracy theorists, like they did post 9/11, are running rampant, but the fact of the matter remains--people really got shot and people really died at an everyday venue, horrendously at what should have been a time of casual celebration.

In the eyes of the public, every Muslim is suspect. There are no such thing as moderate Muslims. Any could radicalize at any time. Once again, "See something, say something" targets Muslims and apparent Muslims, brown people and people who cover their hair with scarves and turbans.

These terrorists are the worst kind because they took lives, shattered families, terrified a community, and made things worse for the peaceful majority of Muslim people in America, heightening their exposure to discrimination, hatred and possible violence.

I do wonder what's become of my country, that mass shootings are so commonplace and so many of us have become so flippant about death until, perhaps, it personally touches us. And just today I began to wonder, as staunchly as I am for gun control (to the point where I am like, yes, someone should take your guns!), if the problem is not other. If it lies in the fabric of who we are as Americans, who we purport to be, and who we actually are.

But besides that, I am at a loss. I don't know what to do, like none of us does, but I do know what not to do.

As a Muslim, I am mortified by every act of violence that is carried out by a Muslim, more than I cringe at ever instance of so-called "black-on-black violence." We can say that these people aren't really Muslim, we can say that what they're following isn't really Islam, we can point out every Muslim that was killed by them and every Muslim hero who saved those around them.

We can condemn every act carried out by people with "Muslim names" before terrorism is formally identified as a motive.

But this doesn't take away the fact that, for some reason and at this time, organizations and individuals are interpreting our texts and our message for the purpose of evil and mass slaughter.

They are certainly not the only ones using a faith to commit atrocities. There are terrorists who draw some sort of twisted inspiration from every religion. But the terrorists who use our faith are center stage now.

A vociferous and murderous minority is successfully defiling our religion in a public arena.

This is not time to sit back and state that this is a sign of the end times, because every day, we're still here. End times is clearly not right now.

So, now--what?

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

I Never Existed Again, the Prequel


I was just going through a journal of mine from when I was 19 years old and read a paragraph that really exemplified the whole "I never existed again" thing, 4 years before I would hear the Djavan song that would give meaning to the feeling I had. And this was only the beginning of me feeling this way. I had not known MQ for a year yet, and I was already falling into the obsession circuit in my brain.

Anything in brackets are edits I've made in retrospect. This was written in January, 2004. Emphasis, with the bold, was also added by me later.

I think it was last Thursday, so Thursday, January 6. It was the first time I had my Spanish class with Sra. Highfill (and wow, I just suddenly had déjà vu with her and her class…like I’d been there before or something).  Anyway, a girl came in named Sarwat.  I had seen her on thefacebook before, back when I was looking up stuff on Azmat…who didn’t end up pairing up with [MQ] at all.  It was just me being silly…again.

Anyway, Sarwat came in, and for whatever reason, I just thought of [MQ] whenever I looked at her.  Okay, it was obvious why I did…I was thinking about the whole culture thing, and if, for him to ever really consider me, that’s what I would have to be…Desi, Pakistani, whatever…and I never would be…well, obviously.  But yes, I thought about that, and then I started thinking back to him, and all the silly little conversations we had… And that progressed, until I thought about him all day.  And then that kid who’s in my Biochemistry discussion and apparently living in South Quad, Ajay…he reminded me of him, too.  And I would see back of heads [around me in class], and I would get startled when [those backs of heads] looked slightly like [his], and almost wanted to close my eyes and run away in case the head turned around and it was him…

It was something like that, not so eloquently.  And I realized at the end of the day that the whole thing was ridiculous.  I hadn’t seen him since November, and now it’s January, and I hadn’t really spoken to him since we did in the summer, and that was kind of shitty in itself, and I was still nervous to come anywhere close to him, even if it was second hand through his friend Sarwat, who never mentioned him...

[...] as she looked at me as I pronounced my name [for the professor in class], I’d wondered if perhaps she’d heard that name before…and for what reason she would have heard it. [Maybe she'd heard about this girl from him, this girl that was obsessed with him].  Or if it was from the back of random people’s heads that kind of looked like his…I just realized it was getting out of hand, and that I’d spent more time that day thinking of him than thinking of anything that had to do with me.

And I started to wonder how much of myself I had lost in the process of being in love with him.  Yes, I may not have ever gotten him, but I was in love with him, and I wanted him, and I thought that if we worked together, I could marry him…all of that foolishness.  But I wondered how much of myself I lost.  I thought I was losing my personality by being so stuck on him  But maybe that wasn’t the case at all.  Maybe, in the beginning of this whole ordeal, I didn’t have that much personality to begin with.  Not as much as I thought I had.

This was remarkable for me to read. In that last paragraph especially, it's like I couldn't even remember who I had been before there was him. I go on to write about how my first journal entry began with me musing about the my teenaged crush, Corey, and I wondered how many legitimate thoughts had I had that were not about some male.

Another (perhaps) remarkable thing is that my writing hasn't changed so very much in the last 11 years. I'd like to think I'm a slightly better writer now, and definitely the content is more mature now, but oh well.

I'm, in general, stunned by how naïve I was...11 years is a lot. I ended this entry thinking about taking out loans to take an MCAT class. That's how long ago that was. That was a more than 4 years of medical school, 1 year of public health school and 3 years of residency ago. Wow!

And it's also incredible how you can lose yourself in someone who in the end has nothing to do with you...