Writing fiction about Islamophobia has helped me process my own experiences of it

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As I was scrolling connected societal media successful 2018, I came crossed a station titled ‘Punish a Muslim Day’.

I’ll ne'er hide nan stomach-churning disbelief I felt reference nan words of an anonymous writer encouraging hateful and sadistic attacks connected Muslims for 24 hours.

It awarded ‘10 points’ to anyone who verbally abused a Muslim and 25 points to personification who pulled nan headscarf disconnected a Muslim female – each nan measurement up to 1,000 points for nan enactment of burning aliases bombing a mosque.

It felt arsenic though personification had simply taken nan rulebook of a videogame and tried to use it to real, quality lives – Muslim lives – to spot what came of a sadistic societal experiment.

I was a second-year assemblage student astatine nan time, studying for summertime exams.

There were moments wherever I recovered myself distracted by what I was seeing, baffled by nan deficiency of reasonable media sum for what seemed a colossal and newsworthy event.

But past my thoughts turned to nan guidelines of nan problem: nan sinister beast that is Islamophobia.

I grew up successful North West London, a small area of nan world that has seen much than its adjacent stock of Muslims.

In my estate, on roads and schoolhouse hallways, being Muslim, wearing nan hijab, were not things that typically drew eyes aliases whispers.

As a 20-something now, I realise nan privilege – yes, an overseas connection to usage – that I had increasing up successful a organization that ne'er made maine uncomfortable astir practising my belief aliases put maine successful a position wherever I felt nan request to mobility my identity.

The same, however, cannot beryllium said astir nan remainder of society.

This unsettling prejudice has established a shadowy but unafraid location for itself successful nan media, entertainment, and moreover government.

Who tin hide erstwhile PM Boris Johnson’s unsavoury and derogatory remarks astir cloaked Muslim women looking for illustration ‘letterboxes’?

On apical of that, the Conservative Party has faced a drawstring of Islamophobic allegations in caller years, which person gone truthful acold arsenic to warrant investigation.

In television, biased representations of Muslims are successful abundance. Look nary further than nan hit-drama Bodyguard, which featured a Muslim female who appeared to beryllium forced into coercion by her abusive husband. 

The twist astatine nan extremity (spoiler alert!) revealed she was nan mastermind of nan full plot, which conscionable seemed to switch 1 lazy stereotype type for another.

And past we move to nan media, which has nary shortage of bias. The quality successful curen betwixt Muslim and non-Muslim terrorists successful reporting has agelong been a contentious issue. 

The Finsbury Park Mosque onslaught is 1 illustration that comes to mind when considering nan existent world consequences of these harmful depictions. The ‘Punish a Muslim Day’ missive is another.

My family and I hadn’t received thing successful nan station but knowing it existed was capable to rattle us, and nan community, for immoderate time. And nan resulting shockwaves stalled us: were we expected to conscionable spell astir our regular lives arsenic normal? Grocery shop, be lectures, aliases extremity by a restaurant?

And what astir nan time earlier nan projected punishment, aliases nan pursuing week? Would nan threat beryllium lessened then? Would we beryllium capable to put our defender down? It felt, successful galore ways, location was an moreover bigger target connected nan backs of nan women successful my family, arsenic hijab-wearing, visibly Muslim women.

I callback my worried parents, insisting that my sister – a Masters student astatine Barts astatine nan clip – beryllium accompanied to 1 of her last twelvemonth exams by my begetter during nan week of nan projected ‘punishment’.

For protection, they said, because of her perceived, and very real, vulnerability.

I grew up learning to internalise each of this – some nan manifest and undercurrents of Islamophobia – but, of course, it near a lasting people connected me. One that yet recovered its measurement retired into nan world arsenic a activity of fiction.

Writing my debut book, You Think You Know Me, 2 years agone during lockdown, has been 1 of nan biggest challenges successful my life to date.

The communicative is astir a woman who tries to find her sound amid rising anti-Muslim tension, but it is besides astir hope, faith, and nan spot of family and friendship.

There are moments of tragedy, for illustration erstwhile Hanan, nan main character, faces bullying, but besides moments of light, erstwhile she recognises that she is overmuch stronger than she knows.

I knew, at the beginning of this journey, that it would beryllium nary easy feat trying to distil my ain experiences – and nan wider experiences of galore Muslims – to trade a communicative that packs a punch, while giving justness to nan issue of Islamophobia astatine heart.

There were times that I recovered nan process intensely uncomfortable.

In having to grapple pinch my ain deep-seated, ofttimes imperceptible trauma and in trying to wrestle nan words into thing that would hopefully springiness sound to young Muslims who very seldom spot themselves represented authentically successful children’s literature.

At times, I felt I did not want to spell on, but nan overriding sound successful my caput that kept maine going was: I wish I had publication a book for illustration this increasing up.

Reading stories that we tin spot ourselves reflected successful should ne'er beryllium a privilege.

Children should beryllium exposed to each sorts of heroines (and villains!) but location are still gaping holes erstwhile we see nan diverseness successful books being published today.

In my story, nan leader I connection up is simply a Muslim girl. A brave, hijab-donning teen who struggles against bias and prejudice, but yet finds her voice. 

Is Hanan an unconventional main character? Yes. But, arsenic personification who could person done pinch reference much stories astir group for illustration Hanan increasing up, I cognize she shouldn’t be.

You tin bargain Ayaan Mohamud’s book, You Think You Know Me, on Amazon here.

Do you person a communicative you’d for illustration to share? Get successful touch by emailing [email protected]

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