Just like any other ordinary day, I set out like an inexorable and intrepid Muslimah, carrying my hijab with utmost gratification. The thought of being stereotyped during a time when Muslims are beleaguered with inundated fear didn’t really intimidate me. I still flaunted my hijab and walked with a Yes! Alhamdulillah I am a Muslim and I am proud of it look on my face. Living in a society where Muslims are labelled as terrorists can be quite challenging. But that didn’t stop me from sporting my religious garment.
I walked into a café next to my place (indecisive, as usual, when it comes to ordering anything on the menu), browsing the least expensive item that was on the list, only because I really wanted to just do my work rather than enjoy the food itself. I ordered a doughnut and grabbed the first empty table that I found. On my right sat a Muslim guy who was engrossed in his laptop. In front of me was a white American gentleman, around his mid-30s. I wasn’t really paying much attention to my surroundings, but for some reason, I vaguely remember that his laptop bore a sticker that read “Boot Camp”.
I took out the laptop from my backpack and placed it on the table, ready to write my article. I could hear people chatting in the background, sipping on their coffee and sharing their hotspot with one another.
I like to mind my own business, especially when I’m by myself. I spent a few hours there, oblivious to what was going on around me and heedless of people walking back and forth. Then, this gentleman approached me with a paper in his hand.
“Excuse me,” he said to me.
He’s probably handing me a flyer from his school, was the first thought that came to my mind.
“I just wanted to give you this.”
With a perplexed look on my face, all I could muster at that point was “Oh, okay.” But as my gaze shifted to the handwriting on the paper, my heart began to race. My hands shook. I stared at the illegible handwriting. I didn’t even start reading the note from the beginning, but focused on the words individually. I tried to stay calm and began reading the note. It said:
This might be as much (or more) for me than you, but I’d like to say a couple of things. Rather than making you feel really uncomfortable as you do your work, I opted for this note.
Let me say unequivocally, you are welcome here. Every night I have been tossing and turning in the last 9 days trying to imagine how people who are demographically like me (white, rural, and working/middle class) have let it get this way.
Please know that you, your family, and community have allies who care deeply for justice, acceptance and inclusion of Muslims and all people.
I hope that you take this as I intend it – a reassurance in a time when our democracy and whole society is in great peril.
Sincerest & Best Luck,
For a moment, I didn’t even know how to react or what to feel. Here I had sat, oblivious to my surroundings while this guy watched me, all these thoughts running through his head. I was pleased with his gesture and the time that he had taken out to write those words for me. I was amazed at the fact that someone had been thoughtful enough to put himself in our shoes as our community deals with the internally-troubling unwanted predicaments of our time. A time when Muslims are being banned from entering the country for “security reasons,” as if we are a threat to this country. It was a small piece of note but the meaningful words carried a great weight that are sure to imbue Muslims like me with a sense of hope in the future. I kept reading the note over and over again, scanning every word that was imprinted on that paper, with a sigh of relief and a feeling of optimism.
There are people out there who are empathetic towards our feelings, who disparage the injustice being done, and who are sufficiently astute to recognize the prevailing situation that has left the world speechless. Moments like these remind me of how God has distributed one part of His mercy into this world, which is why we’re merciful towards one another, which is why humanity still triumphs and we are compassionate towards our fellow human beings, regardless of color, creed and faith. We need to instill a sense of solidarity in our community and our children by reminding them that Allah is the one who loves justice and no matter what religion we belong to, our love for one another should always overlook the differences we may have.
Thank you for this note, Anthony. I don’t even remember your face clearly but I know for a fact that you were the same guy who was working on the laptop that had the “Boot Camp” sticker on it. It’s because of people like you that we stand fearless here in the United States. We might have our differences but we were created by the same God, who placed this compassion in our hearts which was the source of your kindness and empathy toward me. Thank you.
Photo Credit: Matteo Paciotti, “Letter to Someone”