Editorials

Starting a conversation when they stare

Muslims in metro east react to Orlando shootings

Members of the Belleville Masjid and Islamic Education Center react to Orlando shootings and political climate for the muslim community.
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Members of the Belleville Masjid and Islamic Education Center react to Orlando shootings and political climate for the muslim community.

Our Muslim brothers and sisters recently opened up about how they feel about all being painted with the same brush. It was an all too familiar story.

In 1882, it was fear of Chinese immigration taking labor jobs from “Americans.” In 1917, Germans in Belleville understood the injustice of being judged by the war waged by their former countrymen. In the 1930s, it was Jews in Germany. In the 1940s, it was Japanese Americans. In 2015, it was Mexicans as rapists and murderers. For much longer, it has been the LGBTQ community and black Americans.

One group feels threatened, and they react to another group out of some combination of fear, ignorance, entitlement and economic self-interest. That was the core of the July 2, 1917, race riot in East St. Louis that left at least 100 innocent black people dead as threatened white laborers and their families rampaged against 12,000 black immigrants drawn from the Deep South by wartime factory jobs.

Categorization, exclusion and discrimination are significant parts of the America character, but they are character flaws we must work on daily to try to improve ourselves.

“America was built upon being inclusive, and there’s so many Muslims who contribute to society as doctors, lawyers, servicemen,” said Mustafa Mahmood, 21, of Smithton. “To say banning all Muslims is the solution is ludicrous and not indicative of anything this country believes in.”

Muslim women face double discrimination because they are so identifiable. They are judged for modestly covering their heads, but how different is that from Christian women covering their heads for church just a generation or so ago?

Amy Nabulsi sees the looks and the mistrust. She responds to it well: “Even at Walmart, if someone is looking at me, I start a conversation. That’s the only way.”

Nabulsi speaks from her experience, but she could as easily speak for any group in any era. We were all the outsiders at one point.

“We’re just trying to live a normal life like everyone else,” she said. “Maybe we’re dressed differently. We speak a different language. In the end, we’re just like any other person who wants to raise their children in a well-rounded environment, a safe, secure environment, and live life in peace.”

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