Is being a Muslim crime? I grew up watching Bollywood movies in which every terrorist had a beard. Every criminal covered his head. Drug dealers greeted each other with Islamic greetings. And, everyone had an association with Pakistan. They would either be shown shouting Pakistan Zindabad or shouting Allah-u-Akbar. In short, the deeply rooted Islamophobia in Bollywood is about two things:
- Muslims are terrorists.
- Muslims are unfaithful towards their country.
As I didn’t have the luxury of living enough years of life, I was unaware of what it meant. I was unaware that I was a victim of inherited prejudice against Muslims. Just like thousands of children of my age would have been.
In school, many of my classmates asked if my penis is missing its head. Some of them called me Kutwa (the slang for someone who is circumcised). Some asked why are Muslims girls extra hot? Whereas, some told me to explain why all the terrorist attacks are made by Muslims (which is statistically incorrect). Teenage still kept me majorly unaware.
The First Rendezvous
My first awakening encountered with Islamophobia happened when I had started writing. I have stopped watching, writing about, or thinking about cricket. That time, I was a huge fan of it. And, it was about Shoaib Akhtar. I’d appreciated his bowling vigor and in return, I received abuses. It had perplexed me. I couldn’t understand why people would tell me to move to Pakistan just because I admire its cricketer. As I was learning to withstand hatred in the actual sense, I tried to ignore it. The Islamophobic episodes didn’t stop.
Microsoft: Is Being a Muslim Crime?
The one that ambushed my ignorance happened in the computer class in college. We were learning Microsoft excel. A group of my classmates surrounded me and told me to tell the names of terrorists as they were making an excel sheet called “List of top Islamic terrorists”. They said I’m the best person to help them as I must know the name of all the terrorists. They collectively mocked me. During lunch, they made a gathering around me in the canteen and laughed. Whole day, I sat on the back bench and awaited the college to end. There was nothing I could do except heading straight back to home. They didn’t realize it could affect my mental health. No one ever does. Ironically,some of them might be reading this right now. Thank you for making me strong.
When it comes to social media, the episodes are infinite. Jibes. Abuses. Death threats. Rape threat. These are the norms. Words like Mulla, traitor, anti-national, Jihadi are a part of every-day-vocabulary I come across.
It hasn’t still ended. I actively write on Quora and my area of interest is debunking myths. I wrote against the myth that vaccination causes autism and a lot of atheists—who think science is their property—said my answers must be incorrect because I believe in Islamic ideology. It has gone to such an extent that an answer on Black hole turns into my trying to explain that I’m not a terrorist.
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Quite recently, a rickshaw driver shouted the famous “Mullai Pakistan Chalaija” as I was sitting in the e-rickshaw and I told him to stop it. I silently left. I wanted to tell him that I don’t want to travel in his e-rickshaw because I am not going to Pakistan.
My own sister was told to not wear her Hijab in the school where she went for training. My cousin faced verbal death threat and he had to ask for protection from the local police station. The list is endless.
Is it fair? They say don’t scare someone too much that they stop feeling fear at all. It is also called semantic satiation. I think I have an overdose of it as these Islamophobic episodes no more affect me. Or, I should say I don’t let them affect me anymore.
I just want to ask one simple question: Is being a Muslim crime?