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I have feelings too

“Hi my name is Mustafa. I am an engineer, a dancer, and an avid sports fan but the first thing people notice is that I am Muslim. It was only when I went to college that I realised the association my name came with. People used to make fun of me saying, “Arrey terrorist” or “ Oh shit! Do you have a bomb with you?” I knew that none of this was founded in hate, they were insensitive jokes. I’m not really an emotional person, so I took all of it in jest. I couldn’t start teaching everyone that it's not okay to crack such jokes and I could tell that they didn’t really hate me for being a Muslim. I have met really great people in my life who never made me feel that being a Muslim was a big deal, which it isn't. The first time I actually felt otherwise was when one of my friends was on the phone with his mother and when asked who he was with, he gave her all 7 names barring mine. He later apologised stating that his mother had a problem with Muslims so he could not mention my name.

This perception and name calling has become a part of my everyday life. When applying for my visa for further education in Boston, I was put on a waiting list. I received a piece of paper which explicitly said that they needed to do a background check and wanted to rule out the possibility of me having any terrorist links. A month and a half later, I got my visa but not after I realized that this is probably going to happen to me for the rest of my life. Even when I was in Boston, I had a tough time finding roommates. Most people had pre-conceived notions associated with my name. I talked to one of the guys and it went great until two days later, when he came back with excuses about why we can’t live together - they ranged from his parents wanting him to live with a Gujarati to the fact that the apartment was suddenly too expensive. I could have offered to talk to his parents in Gujarati, probably looked at cheaper options, but I know that wouldn't have worked. None of those were an actual issue, Islam was an issue for him.

Most children grow up hearing strict instructions from their parents about who they should marry. It was usually marry anyone from any religion, any caste, anybody - just not a Muslim. It sucks because I don't even get an opportunity to prove myself. I don't get to make a mark. I am an atheist, I don't care about being religious. For me religion is having a sense of what is right and wrong. But my name - I can't take that away from me. It's my identity. Parents should be concerned about legitimate issues, like if I’m not taking care of their daughter or if have a gambling problem - not about the fact that I am born in a Muslim house. I've been with girls who have friends who are Muslim. Friends who are from Iran, Egypt, Pakistan. Their parents never have an issue with that. But it all changes when the person dating their daughter is Muslim. These are parents of kids from cultured and educated backgrounds, the kind you’d assume would be less inclined to having an issue. But I know how far that is from the truth. Islamophobia unfortunately does not discriminate. I’m almost convinced that if I fall in love with someone, chances are it's never going to work out. Her parents will dislike me, maybe even before meeting me. My religion will precede me, and I will have no choice but to be okay with it. At times I wonder why I even bother spending time building connections and relationships. I've in a way made myself immune to any of this, but it would be great if people realised that I have feelings too.”



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