Have you ever received news that you were going to go on a long distance trip and needed to take an airplane, but you weren't excited? In fact, the very thought of flying gave you an immediate feeling of dread. Or may be you needed to take the train some where and yet again, felt some what uneasy about needing to venture alone to uncharted territory on this trip. And still; what if going to the bank, a job interview, the mall, your child's school play, or to a sporting event all were outings that made you feel anxious? Would you continue to do these things regardless? Some people would not, choosing instead to give into the fear.
As a Muslim woman who chooses to wear a hijab (head scarf) and jilbab (outer garment), everyday I have to conciously choose to have courage. I get up and go to work and I interact with non Muslims not knowing which of them may consider me a treat to their own safety simply because of my faith or because of the way I choose to dress. I was born and raised Muslim, so at this point, I have learned to suppress my worries and to live as freely as possible. However, there are days when I go out of my home or when I have to travel to cities for speaking engagements when my eye will catch a glance from someone and it isn't a look of kindness. It often is a look of confusion or one of disdain. At those times, I try to break the ice by smiling or saying "hello" cheerfully, because in Islam, Muslims are taught that smiles not only can help ward off negativity, but also be a form a charity. Therefore, even when I am feeling slighted and emotionally abused, I try to have the courage to do the right thing.
Likewise, when it comes to developing a plot for my stories, I build my characters around situations that often make them feel uncomfortable, upset, or angry and then show as realistically as possible how they can overcome it. I have a very clear intention for writing urban Islamic fiction and that is to be able to show the world that Muslims share many similarities in life with non Muslims. There is love, pain, joy, regression, and even growth in our lives that we as American Muslims haven't had the opportunity to share and have even been prevented from showcasing. However, at a time when New York Congressman Peter King feels the need to discuss only the worst way lives of Muslims can turn out, instead of taking the time to first inform himself and the rest of the nation what Islamophobia is and how painful and distructive it can be, I know I have my work cut out for me. I am rushing against a ticking clock and heavy fire of hate, distrust, and multimillion dollar PR to have the courage to identify the lives of billions of people, including myself, as worthy of living freely.