A Gen Z Muslim On 9/11

A Gen Z American Muslim reflects on the harrowing day of 9/11 and her fear of speaking out on islamophobia.

A Gen Z Muslim On 9/11

A Gen Z American Muslim reflects on the harrowing day of 9/11 and her fear of speaking out on islamophobia.

By

Amirah Ahmed
Photo of Amirah Ahmad, Graphic - Ameer Al-Khatahtbeh

For American Gen Z Muslims, 9/11 is a most perplexing day filled with mourning and unfounded guilt.

There’s something peculiar about pleading with your parents to let you stay home from school to avoid the inevitable stares of your peers; this experience is an annual occurrence. Every year on the 11th of September, American Gen Z Muslims collectively hold our breath in anticipation of the inevitable glares and stinging remarks. When the pledge of allegiance blares from the intercom that morning, you know the extended moment of silence will follow, with it the thick layer of implication that shrouds the room with every awkward glance from a classmate. 

Marketing your patriotism seems like the only way to survive. Shrink your Muslim identity so that maybe you’ll be spared from the gruesome monster that is Islamophobia. These are just two of the rules in the ‘Guidebook to Being American and Muslim’, an instruction manual Gen Z Muslim Americans have memorized almost as religiously as Surah Fatiha. 

But on September 11th, all rules fly out the window and your guidebook becomes a shield. Walking the tightrope between amplifying your condolences for the victims of the attacks and begging people to understand that ‘American’ and ‘Muslim’ are not mutually exclusive terms.

 

 

Terrified to proclaim your exhaustion from constantly defending your humanity, because what if they call you a terrorist? What if they attempt to invalidate your Americanness because you happen to bow your head in prayer the same way that those men did? 

So instead of standing up for yourself, you blanket yourself in an American flag hijab and look down in remorse when they make the same ‘Allahu Akbar’ joke as they have the past three years.

They seem to forget that I’m the daughter of a veteran. They seem to forget that my grandfather served over 20 years as a firefighter. They seem to forget about my uncle’s service in the police force. They honor them until they read the roster. Why? When they hear the stutters in my Teta’s broken English, they seem to forget that she came here for hope, not to deconstruct. When they see me cry for the lives lost that day, they seem to forget that I am an American too, that I was not yet alive 19 years ago and how could I have anything to do with the devastating loss of life? 

Why do they seem to forget that you can mourn a terrible tragedy without turning those who share the faith of the perpetrators into accomplices? 

I am afraid to speak about Islamophobia on a day like today. I’m afraid of being labeled as insensitive in the face of lost life. But nobody worries about sensitivity when ignoring the thousand upon thousands of civilian Iraqi and Afghani lives lost in the resulting wars. Nobody tiptoes around their Islamophobic remarks while scrolling past the endless hate crimes devastating Muslim American communities. And you definitely don’t censor your hatred even though you’re sitting next to a Muslim American that lost a loved one on 9/11 too. In the words of poet Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan, “If you need me to prove my humanity, I’m not the one that’s not human.”

I’m not here to defend the evil, senseless violence of September 11th 2001. I am here to make it clear for what seems like the thousandth time that Muslim Americans lost just as much as you on 9/11. Islam does not condone murder, and blaming an entire demographic based on the skewed actions of a select few is just as ridiculous as blaming all Christians for the actions of the Ku Klux Klan, who also used alleged divine guidance to justify their own violent actions.  

This year, let’s all stand together and mourn the lost lives of our fellow Americans… without displacing your pain on a group that’s hurting just as much as you.

I Tried ‘Halal’ Dating Apps For A Month And Here’s What Happened

For some of us, finding the perfect match comes easy. Other times, it can feel like a roller coaster down a rabbit hole of catfishes and fake profiles.

I Tried ‘Halal’ Dating Apps For A Month And Here’s What Happened

For some of us, finding the perfect match comes easy. Other times, it can feel like a roller coaster down a rabbit hole of catfishes and fake profiles.

By

Ulla Scheik
Art - Ameer Al-Khatahtbeh

I never thought I’d end up on a “halal” dating app. 

To me, Minder always felt like a knock off version of Tinder and I wasn’t sure how to feel about that, especially considering how unsettling the whole “dating” concept is for me as a somewhat-conservative Muslim woman.

Yet there I was, setting up my profile, trying not to get my hopes up but still hopeful. 

Initially, I loved Minder. There were so many potential guys to choose from – I went from having 0 standards and willing to settle for anyone who would slightly understand my religion and culture, to being picky about what height and “religious flavor” I was willing to match with.

(Spoiler alert: I’m still single and maybe I deserve it for swiping left on all the guys who are 5’4 even though I’m 5’4 myself)

Despite being picky, I still had quite a few matches and at times it got overwhelming having to keep up with all these different conversations, many of which were clearly not going anywhere. 

I also ran into a few surprises, I got catfished, I was told off for using slang, and unmatched with because I picked “Shia” as my religious flavor. 

One of my rules for swiping was that I never swiped right on guys that had shirtless photos on their profiles, it was a turn-off and I couldn’t take them seriously. 

For whatever reason though, I made an exception when it came to this one guy named Mahdi. He was local, owned his own business, and I found him really cute. His bio was a mess but I gave him the benefit of the doubt and still swiped right.

Graphic - Ameer Al-Khatahtbeh

I messaged him the day after we matched, and right away with each message I began to realize that something was off. 

For someone who supposedly grew up in the states, his English did not sound like it at all. He also had a picture with a car that had a German license plate, which I thought was odd for someone who lived locally (unless it was just a rental, or he’s super-rich and has a house and car abroad *we love that*). 

His profile also mentioned that he spoke several languages, which I found out he couldn’t speak through our conversation, and he also said a lot of narrow-minded and ignorant things that made me end the conversation altogether.

At one point, I think he genuinely must’ve copied and pasted his message straight from google translate without making any changes to it, and it was very obvious. 

I was convinced that something was off so I did a reverse search image (I know so extra of me but I just had to find out).

And look what came up:

Graphic - Ameer Al-Khatahtbeh

His name is Amin Elkach. He’s a Morrocan athlete/model in Germany.

His real name is not Mahdi, he’s not afghan, he’s not a business owner, he doesn’t live in VA, and he most definitely can’t speak English. 

Unfortunately, he unmatched before I could report him and is still out there cat-fishing. If you run into him tell him he looks like he could be a Morrocan model in Germany!

Another instance I ran into was this excuse of a man who got annoyed because I used slang at one point, and I guess you shouldn’t do that when you’re discussing taxes?

I have so many problems with everything he said in those messages, I wouldn’t even know where to begin, but I’ll leave it at this; it’s him, it’s not me.

Graphic - Ameer Al-Khatahtbeh

I don’t have screenshots for my next point, but on my profile, I purposely chose to show that my “religious flavor” as Minder likes to phrase it, is Shia. 

Even though I don’t believe in sectarianism, there are others who do and there are a lot of misconceptions and prejudice towards the Shia label. For that reason I chose to disclose it on my profile, in case someone had a problem with my label, they could simply avoid me from the get-go and save us both time.

Yet many of the guys I matched with apparently didn’t bother reading through my profile before matching, so a few of them messaged me afterward to let me know that they’re unmatching because I’m Shia and they’re looking for someone Sunni. 

I was most offended by the guys who matched, proceeded to waste my time with a dry conversation, then realized my profile says that I’m Shia and then unmatched.

And while all these things happened on Minder, I also tried MuzMatch at the time and my overall experience made me feel overwhelmed because I didn’t feel like I could keep up with everyone. I also felt like beyond the basic biodata, the apps didn’t really help much in getting to know the other person. I just felt overall disappointed and like I wasted so much time that I’m never getting back. Not to mention all the creeps I ran into on the app.

While my overall experience was definitely not good, and the apps didn’t really help me find anyone, there are people who find each other this way.

I’m not sure what differentiates those who find success on these platforms from the ones who don’t, but I know that it is possible for some people and that there plenty of nice and genuine guys on the app who don’t lie about who they are.

For me personally, the experience wasn’t worth the time I put into it, only to find myself right back where I started. But if you’re thinking about trying out these dating apps, I’d say definitely give it a shot, but don’t be too disappointed if it doesn’t get you the results you want.

Fall Semester’s Online, What Now?

Online classes got you a little stir-crazy? Well, we’re here to help! Here is a guide on how to make the most out of your online classes

Fall Semester’s Online, What Now?

Online classes got you a little stir-crazy? Well, we’re here to help! Here is a guide on how to make the most out of your online classes

By

Zainab Damji
Art - Ameer Al-Khatahtbeh

None of us need to be reminded of our current situation; this pandemic has taken the world by storm, affecting many far and wide. And while a lot of people have it worse, this can be a frustrating time for college students. 


With classes going online for many of us, we now have to learn how to navigate a virtual university environment while dealing with so many other things that may be going on in our lives. Such collective efforts in curbing the spread of this virus are vital, but that doesn’t mean that our feelings of confusion and disappointment aren’t justified. Even though a lot of things seem like they’re out of our control right now, we can still work towards learning the ropes of managing our stress in these circumstances. Here are some things that worked for me!

1) Make a routine (and stick to it!)

It’s very easy to lose a sense of routine when you’re learning online — especially if your classes are pre-recorded. A routine is very important to maintain a sense of normalcy and create a productive working environment.

 

2) Craft your workspace

All of us learn best in different ways, so it’s only natural for us to have different set-ups that suit our working style. Some of us prefer more screens, while others prefer notebooks. I know I love having a journal and a physical calendar but my friends prefer apps to manage their productivity. Make your workspace a place that naturally puts you into work mode: it could be a corner in your room, your dining table or the outdoors! The bottom line is you know what works best for you, so be sure to craft your workspace accordingly.

 

3) Practice self-care!

From taking regular breaks in between studying to playing video games, netflixing or going all out with a home-spa set up — make sure you’re making time for yourself! Your regular academic course load is challenging enough, coupled with our given circumstances, it’s super important that we take out time from our day to relax and do the things we like!

 

4) Maintain social connections!

Just because you’re social distancing doesn’t mean you can’t be social! Just like you would in school, make sure you’re keeping your social life going. Whether it’s through video calls, online games or virtual movie nights. And if being on your screen all the time gets you tired, look into planning a socially distant picnic with your friends! There’s so many ways to maintain your social relationships!

 

5) Talk to your parents/roommates

Before you start this Fall, try to sit down and have a conversation with your parents, siblings, roommates or anyone that you will be sharing your living space with. You can discuss expectations and draw boundaries to prevent any disagreements or miscommunication in the future. This can include talking through household responsibilities, privacy or setting a quiet time; this is a perfect opportunity to express how they can best support you! While it may seem trivial or irrelevant, I think it could prove really helpful in making your study-from-home life productive and stress-free.

 

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#HijabisFightBack: Belgian College Students Protest Headscarf Ban Constitutional Ruling

Since the Belgian Constitutional Court ruled that a headscarf ban is allowed in higher education, twelve Belgian universities have announced they will not impose such a ban in their classrooms.

 

The Constitutional Court of Belgium made the decision to allow the ban on headscarves imposed by Francisco Ferrer Brussels university college. A group of Muslim women who were studying at Fransisco Ferrer Brussels university college, made a complaint. The Brussels court referred the case to the Constitutional Court of Belgium. At the start of June, the Constitutional Court decided that the possibility of a headscarf ban was not contrary to the Constitution or the European Convention on Human Rights. The possibility of such a ban applies to not only headscarves but all symbols expressing religious or political opinions. 

The ruling sparked backlash on social media. Students, young people and rights organizations say the decision is a violation of a basic human right. People protested the ruling by using hashtags such as, #TouchePasAMesEtudes (Don’t touch my studies) and #HijabisFightBack.

On Sunday afternoon, thousands of Brussels students gathered at the Mont Des Arts for a demonstration against the decision. The legal protest, called “Hijabis Fight Back” was organised by 24-year-old student and documentary filmmaker Fatima-Zohra Ait El-Maâti and her friends. The protest took place in the middle of their final exams.

The campaign has put pressure on Belgian universities to announce whether or not they will choose to uphold the controversial ban on their campus or not. The campaign recently paid off, with 12 Belgian universities and colleges ensuring students they “will not impose such a ban,” stressing that “religious freedom is protected in their classrooms,” according to The Brussels Times.

The Free University of Brussels tweeted a statement stating “Equality and inclusion are central to VUB. Diversity is a fact, at our university as well. So let it be clear that every student is welcome with us regardless of gender, origin or social status. With or without headscarf.”

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