As an American Muslim, I am acutely aware of the physical attacks, racial slurs, taunting and discrimination faced by my fellow believers.
Of course, it is not just Muslims who face increasing Islamophobia. It is also people who look like Muslims: Sikhs, Hindus and anyone with a brown complexion (despite the fact that many American Muslims are African-American).
Yet even with all this vitriol, I do not want your love.
Every time someone says “Let’s meet hate with love,” I applaud the sentiment.
At the same time, I know it means more work: I have to shovel out the hate thrown at me and fellow Muslims, and I have to make a cup of tea for you while I am shoveling.
Love is a nice sentiment. Real love, though, is work. I can have love in my heart, but to love someone is to know that person. It means having compassion and empathy, and being engaged. You and the person you love have to commit to each other.
But I do not know you enough to love you, and I do not want to have to get to know you that well. It is too much work.
I do appreciate the idea. I know it is coming from a good place. It just makes me carry the pressure of fixing someone else’s problem. It tires me.
Here’s the thing, though. If love is work, hate has to be work, too. People who hate me have to have an incredible reserve of energy to keep going, especially since they don’t know me. The only thing I can think of is that they hate themselves, and simply express it against me.
The funny thing is, Islamophobes hate me because I am a Muslim, and groups like the so-called Islamic State hate me because I am not the “right” type of Muslim. Maybe the two groups could just go on and hate each other, and leave me alone.
I do not want your love. I do not want your hate. It is too much work.
I am a New Yorker. I am proud of that. And here’s the secret to New Yorkers’ success: We are not rude. We just want to be left alone. Eight million New Yorkers get that worldview. We help people who drop their hats, or who need help opening a door. We give up our seats on the bus and the subway to people who need them more. We say “please” and “thank you.” Those are my New York values.
And we also value relationships. We take them seriously, and we know that they are something to be nurtured and cherished.
So, while I want people to stop hating me, I am not looking for someone to love me.
Maybe what we need is to have love in our hearts, and to recognize that love in action is called justice. Then, maybe, we can have liberty and justice for all.
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