Ever wondered what a Brown guy with a Beard is called? This question arose after an incident that took place. Before anything, I know it is a little long post, so please bear with me because it is a very important issue. Also share it with others so that the discussion gets into the other communities!
So few months back my brother and I came to the realization that it is
obligatory wajib (command) on Muslim men to have beard. I know many brothers will jump on me and ask me century old questions, and I will inshallah (God-Willing) address those in some future posts, this one decision changed our outward appearance and taught many different lessons.
Change in our outward appearances resulted in the change of how people perceive us. Different people were asking me questions about why I am not shaving, what does it represent? Is beard the tribal pride or something? Of course there were some Muslim brothers who were supportive of this, many thanks to them for being there and more importantly to Allah Ta’ala for giving me the company of such friends.
I really like when people are eager to learn and they ask me questions. So I was happy that people were asking me questions that they would not ask such questions before but there were some others who resort to passing out judgement.
One such judgement among others was that my brother looks like a “Mini bin Laden.” This came to me shocking, I have heard the word “Terrorist” before but never thought that some people would actually compare us with Bin Laden. So I replied back saying that “It is like I see a picture of Jesus and I say that he looks like Bin Laden!”
The rebuttal was even more stunning. I was told: “He (Jesus) was White not Brown!” At that point I gave up, I thought it is useless to argue the color of Jesus Christ, because if I started on this topic it might offend other Christians around me who might not agree with this particular person.
I don’t think this as an exceptional case. Someone was bold enough to say it, someone that I have been in interaction for about 4 years. It not only shows the person’s utter ignorance about the rest of the world, it also shows that although people choose to stay ignorant or enlightened, the consequences can be more serious.
This mentality leads to the support of racial profiling on Airports, this mentality can even lead to the support for policies that might force Muslims out of work, or out of the country. This is a sick mentality that if you are Brown and you have a beard, you look like a Terrorist. Although the media has very much to do with this perception, but God has given people brains as well.
I didn’t have any such problems before I had a beard. Why is that so? I don’t know. May be I looked like an Indian to some so people weren’t afraid of me.
When ever people ask me about my origins, I ask them to guess. When I was clean shaved, people would guess me as Indian, or Arab, rarely Pakistani. Since I have grown beard, people have been guessing me as Saudi, Yemeni, and Afghani. So what does this mean and what can we do about it?
What Can We Do? Few Points to Ponder!
First- The Young Muslims:
1] What we as Muslims can do to address this issue? I think Young Muslims (Muslim youth) have a very important role to play. We should educate ourselves about Islam and establish Islam in our personal lives and in our outward appearances to the best of our ability. We are the ambassadors of Islam in high schools, colleges and universities and we should be proud of it. The role of taking up the responsibility starts by proudly calling yourself Muhammad instead of asking people to call you “Moe!”
2] In high schools on the cultural day, wear your traditional attire. When everyone looks different you should look different too. You should not be afraid of what people think of you in that attire, it is a Cultural Day, and that is the whole purpose of that Day, to break the cultural ignorance.
3] Be proud of being Muslim, one of the way you can be a proud Muslim is by hanging out with people who are not affected by Identity crises, and by you studying the lives of the companions of the Prophet Muhammad. Look at their lives and how they were Men and Women enough to stand for their believe despite of torture in Makkah! Here in America we have the opportunity to educate people, and what a better way to educate others by practicing what we believe!
Second- The Muslim Student Association:
The second most important role can be played by the Muslim Student Associations (MSA) across the nation. MSAs always have events on Hijab but after experiencing this I think the “threatening” appearance of both genders should be addressed in their events.
This would need some innovative thinking on the part of Muslims-brothers and sisters. In the case of Hijab events, females can try on Hijab but guys cannot try on Beard! So MSAs need to think of something innovative and interesting way that can break the barriers and attract people. If you have something in mind, please leave a comment or e-mail me.
This is a ongoing thing and will be based on trial and error. If you are part of the MSA any where in the North America, discuss with your friends and do it, and please let me know about your idea and whether you got anything!
Third- The Decent Americans:
Muslims and the people of other/no faiths need to have stronger partnerships and coalitions between groups. This means that Muslims need to get out of their self created shell, and this also means that social justice groups need to help break the stereotypical and racist barriers put in place by the media and vocal and organized right-wing propaganda campaigns.
In conclusion, please leave a comment below if you have any suggestions or ideas, please also share with others to address the issue. Lets celebrate diversity and lets respect everyone despite of our skin, religious, ethnic, or racial differences.
“O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).”
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