Islamophobia vs. the clamor of the good people
By Lori Saroya, Star Tribune
Mohammad Zafar was walking down the street minding his own business when he heard it. An angry, fierce voice yelled something he had heard many times before: “Go back to your country!” He instinctively looked around, wondering who they were talking to. Surely, he would come to that person’s defense and offer any help he could. But there was no one else. They were talking to Mohammad.
The comment is nonsensical because most American Muslims don’t have a country to “go back to.” This is their country. Despite that, American Muslims are regularly subjected to hateful comments — especially Muslim women in hijab or Muslim men, like Mohammad Zafar, that have a long beard.
It’s disturbing that a young man walking down the street in Minnesota would be regularly subjected to hate for no reason. It’s even more disturbing that he was targeted solely based on his race and religion. However, what makes Mohammad’s case so egregious is that he is a former United States Marine.
Not only is this Mohammad’s country, but he proudly and honorably served it. He risked his life for it.
Mohammad is a recipient of the prestigious Minnesota Veterans Voices Award, presented to veterans who have made “exceptional contributions to the community.” His full-time job involves working with returning veterans, assisting them with the Minnesota GI bill at a local university. Earlier this month, he was featured by Twin Cities Public Television for promoting fitness in his neighborhood.
I wasn’t the only one outraged by the stranger’s comments. The outpouring of support on Mohammad’s Facebook post, where he shared the incident, was overwhelming. He jokingly responded, “Which home? Eaganistan? Saint Paulistan? or Bunrsvilistan? After a while I just stop saying things. If my kids were with me, then I would talk to them so they don’t feel afraid.”
Lori Saroya is a civil rights activist, nonprofit leader, writer and mother. She has received several awards and recognitions for her community work including a Congressional Tribute, the Governor’s Distinguished Service Award, and the Ten Outstanding Young Minnesotans. She is writing her first memoir, a reflective piece on her identity as an American Muslim woman and the civil rights challenges facing her community.
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