Life: Then & Now

Recently, my son left home to join his University in the United States, and a significant concern for us was his safety. I wonder how many remember when Islam and especially Pakistan were synonymous with lawlessness and terrorism, and chaos. My son was two months old when September 11 happened, and things changed so much over the years. I remember the airport security lines, my pat-downs after I was pulled to the side for extra checks. I always requested a female security officer, and my request was always respected. I remember telling people (ordinary run-of-the-mill folks) that I was from Pakistan and watching them give me their undivided attention.  People always asked if it was safe to be there or advised us to stay safe if traveling to Pakistan. I cannot describe the unwarranted guilt, fear, and stress that Muslims living in Western Societies felt. If there was news of shooting anywhere, people would pray that the shooter wasn’t a Muslim, and there were incidents along the way. It gives me no satisfaction or joy in saying that the present-day U.S. is kind of lawless too, in its unchecked gun violence, and senseless loss of lives, in its racism, and violence against people of color, against Muslims, Jews. The public discourse over various issues often escalates into ugly verbal assaults. There’s a lack of civility and tolerance for an opposing opinion. Again, I am reminded of those days when all one had to do was turn on the television to see how violent Islam was and how all Muslims were basically terrorists. In those days, it was so stressful to go out in public as a hijabi. I can recount numerous minor incidents that happened over the years. Stepping outside for groceries was a constant source of tension and headache. The mainstream television channels were so irresponsible and biased in their coverage of Islam and Muslims. In those days, everyone was united against “Islamic terrorism” (it saddens me that the name given to violence and bloodshed started with the word “Islam”). Most Muslims were viewed with suspicion and regarded as would-be terrorists and bombers.  That’s how they were depicted in entertainment shows, the cliched Arab accents, beards, ridiculously violent behaviors, and the list can go on. People are reactionary creatures. We interact with our surroundings and react to what we see and hear. I haven’t looked at the research, but I can guarantee that if we watch something or listen to something repetitively over long periods, we will believe in the information and spread the news around. Some people might also be inclined to take action on a perceived injustice.So anytime we are bombarded with a particular message from different sources, we should really observe the message’s origins and agenda. Additionally, We should know that there are no unbiased sources, and we should take the news or the message with a grain of salt. We are living in strange times with too many wars, a raging pandemic, not to mention horrible and rapid climate change. For professional media outlets, citizen entrepreneurs running their own tiny youtube channels, or F.B. groups, viewers matter a lot (viewers mean money). I look at the information on F.B., YouTube, and other sources, and almost nothing is as accurate as it is depicted because there are no independent sources.

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