Every day we are confronted with the reality of the world. There’s no escaping it. Sure it “sucks” to see social media posts of people suffering all over the world. For many of us, social media is an escape from reality, it’s an outlet to show our highlight reel. But now many of us want to hide from it. Hide from the shocking scenes of tragedy, hide from the shocking remarks of hatred and ignorance. Delete our “friends” and think it will all go away. I admit, sometimes this platform of Cheia de Vida seems like an escape from reality. But in essence, it’s not. It’s about a shared experience and springboard to share ideas and grow ideas. There are too many incidents of hatred happening all over the world to hide from them. And to be honest, maybe I haven’t been in the mood to share what I planned to share here because it feels like it would seem selfish. I’d also feel in denial of my true feelings and concerns that I and many people feel on a daily basis. But I also know that a big part of what makes me Cheia de Vida (full of life) is emotion and my willingness to express my opinions on situations and events that are embedded with any type of emotion. It’s about sharing these ideas with the hopes of transforming the negative into the positive. Also by not sharing what I’m feeling I’m denying myself what I aimed to do here: connect with anyone from anywhere. I’m also hiding myself with myself. Which is something I’ve done for a long time. Growing up in a small town being one of the only visible minorities made me feel like I was strange. People didn’t even know who Muslims were. I managed to escape that feeling once I had grown up and surrounded myself with more diversity. But just like a boomerang, those feelings have come back but in a much different form. As an adult, I refuse to hide who I am. And maybe I’m taking a risk in doing so as a human being and a business owner but it was a risk I’m willing to take.
Although I may not express my concerns on a daily basis here, I am deeply concerned. These problems are hitting closer and closer to home. Mosques are being burned, Hijabi women being assaulted for no reason (wait, is there actually a reason to be assaulted in the first place?), Muslim taxi drivers being shot in the back, there are self defence classes and tips specifically for Muslims, and the list goes on. All because the true face of Islam has been battered and ripped to shreds. It’s heartbreaking.
As a Muslim myself, perhaps I may seem biased in my stance. But rest assured that I would feel this pain for anyone coming from any belief system who is experiencing pain and suffering. Pain is pain and it hurts everyone. No one deserves it. I am terrified of what is going on. I am terrified of Islamophobia. The word itself doesn’t seem to make sense. A phobia connotes fear. People usually avoid what they are afraid of. Fear is not the word I would use to best describe the constant remarks and actions of violence. It’s downright hatred. Maybe the fear arises from what they do not know. That fear becomes so deeply ingrained that it blinds the eyes from seeing what is there. So much to the point where the heart is blocked from letting good coming in and inviting a chance to know more. You cannot love what you don’t know.
The problems surrounding these worldwide tragedies become further perpetuated by the abrasive language used. It’s frustrating as ever to keep hearing time and time again that it was indeed a terrorist who caused a crime. It was a terrorist from the moment the crime took place. Whether or not a criminal is labelled as a terrorist is beyond the scope of our control. What we can control is how we choose to react. Do you choose to believe that all “Muslim” criminals are terrorists or that all criminals are terrorists? We know in our hearts that the latter is true. Now is the time to use words of love and understanding. Furthermore, now is the time to spread words of love and understanding. You can’t counter hate with hate. You can only counter hate with love. Believe me, when I decided to write this piece, I was in a different place. I was motivated by frustration, anger, and disappointment as I kept seeing and hearing ignorance spread like wildfire. Once again. But I knew that wasn’t me. That’s not the example I was taught in Islamic school every Saturday morning. It’s not the example I was taught from the people in my community who started out as strangers yet still invited everyone to their homes. Community members whom I have considered family for many many years.
When you’re fortunate to learn something, you have to be generous in spreading the knowledge. With that being said, I encourage everyone of any faith, culture, or belief to be share what you know with kindness. There is too much hate and it’s about time we share the love. Share the love is a phrase I use often as my call to action on Cheia De Vida. But now it’s time for me to encourage a call to action through your online and offline actions. Continue to be cautious and vigilant, but also be kind. Be kind in the face of hate.