This weekend we had the distinct honor of attending the wedding of one of my husband’s colleague and former student; he attests to his exemplary character and we watched him, in youthful grandeur make promises to his stunning bride under the covenant of God.
As I ponder on the hours we spent there, I am reminded of all the things that make America great and I am reminded of the freedoms I still have afforded to me in this beautiful, diverse nation. We were the only Muslim family present that evening. With all due respect to their perfectly tanned bodies, I probably wore double the amount of fabric the other women wore as I adhered to the Islamic way of dress but none of that was apparent. My perfect bun, wrapped tightly underneath my hijab envied their luscious locks cascading down their shoulders. They enjoyed their dinner upon the arrival of the bride and groom to the reception, while we waited an hour and a half later to break our fast. None of that seemed strange and not a single person made us feel out of place. We sat with complete strangers at our table and struck up interesting conversations throughout the night, sharing smiles, laughs and tidbits of our lives. They doted on our children and complimented them on their behavior. As the sun began to set over the river, they reminded us that the time was nearing and even helped us in getting our dinner as we readied ourselves to end another day of fasting.
In those few hours, I felt honored, to have been there, to have been able to represent Islam to hundreds of people, to show the general American public that we are similar in attitudes and speech but more than that, I was grateful that those few hours renewed my faith in the American people and showed me that when given the opportunity the vast majority will treat us with tolerance and respect, hardly stopping to notice our differences but rather celebrating our similarities.
Fast forward a few hours, I woke up to the sad news of the Orlando shooting; an act of terror, performed by a Muslim, in the name of Islam….but while my heart is heavy and aches for the families, I refuse to say I’m sorry because I had no part to play in that grotesque, unfathomable incident. I refuse to call him a Muslim, and I refuse to believe that he and I shared the same religious faith….On that same notion, I refuse to believe that I should live my life in fear because I want to believe that my experience that beautiful evening will transpire and permeate the thickness of the division and hatred we anticipate. May God protect and preserve the people of this nation and grant us the wisdom to spread love, not hate and let us collectively work to dismantle fear and intolerance.