Why I'm Scared and Confused in the Aftermath of the San Bernardino Shooting
I'm a Pakistani-American, U.S.-born, Muslim woman. My stomach is twisting to a dozen different fears about what the most recent shooting shows. I think it's worth telling you how I feel after reading NYT coverage: http://nyti.ms/1Nuu1x2
- •Today the Senate blocked a bill to close the background check loophole. The CDC still has no funding to do research on reducing gun violence. (Source: Everytown, WashPo)I am straight up angry at how our representatives can still consciously choose NRA lobbying money and NRA-ensured job security over TRYING to prevent more people from losing their lives in the next...week, or month, or year. They have the power and responsibility to TRY making it more difficult for this violence to happen. They have more than "thoughts and prayers."
- •No one feels safe and everyone feels desensitized.My school shutdown because of a threat four days ago - and we were fine - but it was too normal, too frequent to sign "stay safe" in the passing of our stay-at-home work emails.
- •And why, this regional center? This place for housing and work programs, for therapy and social services! To more than 30,000 people with disabilities! This feels like a deeper work of evil, another attack on our public services.And then...
- •My stomach dropped when I learned the shooters were Pakistani, Muslim, and U.S. born.These are the boxes I'd check. The NYT article I linked describes an average Muslim couple, with an immigrant wife, a suburban life, a 6 mo. old daughter. A supportive mom but an extremely abusive father. Devout in every way, but radicalized in isolation. His siblings, community, coworkers: all shocked. all confused.
- •Among the 14 killed and 17 injured, they injured the wife of the mosque's program director.She was a member of the mosque and a county worker, too, like the shooter. The mosque's director "never thought of him as someone who's violent."
- •This couple won't be talked about as "loners" (read: not tied to white extremism) but a sign of "Islamic extremism."regardless of if it happened through isolated, online brainwashing
- •And I am scared and confused because if it is Islamic extremism and not only mental derangement/workplace anger (part of the typical motivations of school shooters), how did this happen?!aka how did such a mind-warp happen to this seemingly average Pakistani-American Muslim couple?! That is new in our country. And it is deeply perplexing and scary and condemned and confusing for the mosques and religious leaders from Riverside, CA to Pittsburgh, PA who foster very integrated, moderate community spaces.
- •And I am scared and confused because the Islamophobia shitstorm to come is terrifying.and this won't be reserved for a bearded minority like post-9/11. "Pakistani, Muslim, U.S.-born, average, suburban, engineering school, etc " Y'all that list is everyone I know.
- •All my friends who look like me, mostly half-religious for their parents' benefit, are scared for their parents.Are their white friends gonna think twice about them, our average American Muslim families? I'm privileged to have a mom who doesn't wear a headscarf, and I hate that I have to think that. My best childhood friend is traveling to South Carolina with her hijabi mother tomorrow, and is so paranoid. For the first time, her sisters told her to take the hijab off when they get to the hotel, just in case.
- •All our parents, religious in old age and as a last grasp at the culture they left behind, are scared for the kids."Do you feel like anyone treats you differently for how you look or our last name," my mom's been asking this year every time we come home. "We will have to go on an intellectual offensive with kids here," my dad reacted today, confused at the shooter. Dad's a Muslim civil rights advocate and interfaith leader in Pittsburgh. He meant putting warnings and deeper care in Sunday School curricula. "This will do major damage to U.S.-born citizens: distrust of other Muslims and immigrant spouses."
- •Rhetoric matters. On Thanksgiving, a Moroccan Muslim driver in my hometown, Pittsburgh, was shot.His passenger said he looked Pakistani and asked him about ISIS. The driver harshly condemned ISIS and said he loved America - is only 3 months away from citizenship - but it wasn't enough. (Source: http://bit.ly/1Nufg1J)
- •The election cycle heightens the race to hostility and incites paranoia.Right after 9/11, even President Bush made sure to rhetorically defend Islam as a peaceful religion for billions of people (regardless if his actions showed otherwise in coming years). I truly cannot imagine any Republican candidate today saying anything so moderate. This feels like an unparalleled level of paranoia, perhaps because America felt the threat after 9/11 was geographically contained. But now no one knows where the threat is. It's nebulous. So they have to call it a shadowy religion.
- •But how does anyone 'combat' Islamophobia?How do you show "solidarity" and fight back against stereotypes? Through hashtags? Rallies? By insisting on just maintaining your normal friendships and community connections? It's not so direct as when I could throw my energy to planning a vigil after the Chapel Hill Shooting. I don't know the answer. For today, maybe just awareness will do.