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Repeating the Past: The Dangers of Labeling Muslims

I’m not exactly sure how we came together…mutual friends…mutual interests. Needless to say we found one another online, and something just clicked. You know when you meet someone and you feel like you’ve known them forever? I don’t have many friends that are close, but I instantly felt close to Maysoon.

Maysoon is standing next to Dominick, her hand on his wheelchair, and other hand near her hip. She is wearing a green and white patterned dress. Her long dark hair is down around her shoulders, and she has a pair of dark sunglasses on her head. They are indoors. Dominick has a black power wheelchair. He is wearing a dark purple polo shirt, black pants, and has short dark hair and a dark brown beard.

Maysoon Zayid is a Muslim woman from Jersey who is way more cultured than me. l’m a white trans guy from small-town Ohio who had never met a Muslim until junior year of high school when I visited a mosque for class. Even then, I had never had a Muslim friend until I briefly went to college at the University of Michigan in 2009.

When I had been unintentionally outed by our professor, my Muslim classmate, a quiet woman with expressively beautiful eyes who wore a hijab and was studying theatre design, was one of the few people who was kind to me about it. I was so shocked because I had been led to believe that Muslims did not support LGBT people. It was the first time my eyes were opened to the kindness of people in the Muslim community. I was sad to lose touch with her when I moved away, but I have many fond memories of her.

So when I connected with Maysoon I had no idea how much I would truly learn about being Muslim, about integrity, and about religious based stigma and oppression. The more I learn, the more afraid I am for her, and all Muslims in this country, who are peaceful, who are afraid, and who are being unfairly targeted and cast in a harmful light simply because of who they are. I don’t want anyone to hurt my friend, and yet I fear for her every single day.

I know this kind of fear well. It’s the same fear I have felt at the notion of being outed as trans to the wrong person. It’s the same fear I felt when I was told by a friend I grew up with that it was not safe for me to return to my hometown, because some people had threatened physical harm and worse against me, if I were to return. I have been afraid for my life, simply because of who I am, and now that same thing is being done to Muslims right here in America.

I grew up hearing over and over that we should never forget the Holocaust. So many people were killed. Jewish people. Polish people. Disabled people. If I lived in Nazi Germany I would not have survived. I would’ve immediately been sent to the gas chambers to die simply because I am disabled. That is an incredibly sobering reality to face. Nazi Germany did not happen overnight. It evolved. It started by labeling and registering Jews, taking away their businesses, and othering them, before it evolved into genocide. We should never ever repeat that, and yet, here in 2015, some people, mainly self-described Republicans, are attempting to do the same thing to Muslims by suggesting that we should be forcing them to be registered and labeled. That is how it begins.

Every time I read Maysoon’s Facebook or Twitter, my heart breaks for her and all of the other Muslims in this country who live here peacefully. Singling out an entire group of people has never ended well. I am afraid for my friend. I’m afraid for what this country has become. Maysoon is just as American as I am, yet she is being singled out because of the color of her skin and the religion she happens to believe in. When has this or will this ever been right?

I will not sit back and say nothing. I will do everything in my power to protect my friend. Making friends has never been easy for me, so connecting with someone I truly care about is a huge deal. I’m not sure what I would do if something happened to her. Probably do what she would want me to do, and raise holy hell, but I would be without my friend, and there would be a hole in my heart knowing such violence, hatred, and vitriol could have been prevented.

The way we treat Muslims in this country doesn’t affect the actual terrorists. It just makes them believe their actions are more justified. It just hurts the innocent people who happen to be peaceful Muslims, which is what the vast majority of Muslims in this country are. Donald Trump wants to lead this country down a very dangerous path, and it is disheartening to see how many Americans actually support him.

We MUST NOT forget that mistakes we made in our past. We took our time getting involved in World War II, ignoring what was happening to the Jews and others deemed undesirables by Nazi Germany. We did not get involved until the battle came to us. We have ignored genocide around the world in places like Rwanda and Darfur. We always regret not getting involved, in allowing so many people to die, after the fact. Now that this is in our own backyard, we cannot make these same mistakes. Many lives depend on us to be better human beings, and I will fight to make sure the vast majority of Americans choose love and not hatred. After all, Maysoon and I already have plans to take over the film industry, and no bigots are going to stop us!

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