Certain moments define us. As Americans, we find these moments often come at times of tragedy. Pain and suffering strike a special chord in the American ethos. They remind us that we are united, that we care, and that we truly are the land of the free and the home of the brave. As President Obama put it, these moments remind us that “We are Americans — united in concern for our fellow citizen.”
And that’s why it hurts. That’s why it hurt so much to be an American Muslim today. As I dropped my head in prayerful prostration this afternoon, my thoughts were with the people of Boston. As I brought my hands together in supplication this evening, my prayers were with those still fighting for their lives. But my heart? It was feeling the brunt of a day spent hurting, a day shouldering an added burden it never deserved.
Today’s tragedies brought shock, pain and horror and heavied the hearts of all Americans. But for American Muslims, there was an added weight: We watched as calls for the execution for all American Muslims were made. We listened as the word “Muslim” was used seemingly as a synonym for the terms “terrorist” and “bomber.” We waited fearfully as our faith was put to trial before a single suspect had even been identified.
Within our communities, texts and emails were circulated urging people to be careful. There might be hate crimes tonight. Women with hijabs and men with beards may become easy targets. No one knew how the day would unfold and what the night would bring. Overwhelmingly, American Muslims were afraid. Over and over again, the same refrain was shared: No, not again – not another 9/11, not another decade of being hated.
Growing up, I was taught to believe in America, in her principles and her virtues. I was taught to love America. I was taught to appreciate this beautiful land that so much of the world looked up to. But as I scrolled through my Twitter feed just a few hours after the attacks at today’s Boston Marathon, seeing #Muslims trending sent a chill down my spine. It showed me an America that I was afraid of, one vilified with comments incited by hate and ignorance — words and perspectives that stood in stark contrast to the very sense of philos that has forever united us as Americans.
This had happened before. In the days following 9/11, hate became a norm. Prejudice and discrimination were a standard that the rare few questioned. But today was different, people stood up. Bigotry and hate was rejected. Ans as the day progressed, the trend quickly changed as attacks against Muslims where overwhelmed by the powerful force of messages of solidarity and support from Americans of all faiths and backgrounds. Prejudiced perspectives and racist viewpoints were not okay. As Americans, we were better than that.
As this tragic day comes to a close, we must have hope. Today hurt me both as an American and as an American Muslim. But it also presented us all with an opportunity — an opportunity to move forward as a united, indivisible nation that recognizes that our strength and our courage come from our solidarity. Today, people of all faiths mourn. We each pray in our own way for those who have fallen and those who are struggling. We pray for strength to weather the trials and tests the coming days will bring. But most importantly, we pray for each other: that we remain united and find solace in one another.
In the Islamic tradition, when the Prophet Muhammad spoke of community, he described it as a body. If one limb aches, the entire body aches. Today, as we see the hearts of our brothers and sisters in Boston ache, an entire nation aches — a nation as united and as indivisible as it has ever been.
May the Almighty bring peace to the families of those whose lives were lost, strength to those who are fighting for their lives, and patience to all those still recovering from this tragic day.
Hammad “Moses” Khan is a Master of Public Health candidate at the University of California Davis School of Medicine. An award-winning writer, Hammad has an extensive background as a student leader in the American Muslim community as well as significant experience working on healthcare issues affecting under-served communities in both the international and local contexts.
This article was originally published on The Huffington Post. Photo credit: Bahman Farzad