Khan: Eid, overshadowed

Two years ago, I started law school right at the beginning of Ramzan. It was tough — I was hungry, thirsty and exhausted, and on top of that, I was adjusting to life in a new city and trying to make sense of the law for the first time.

When Eid finally rolled around a month later, I was ragingly excited. I had earned the reason to feast and celebrate. The end of Ramzan always evokes a sense of accomplishment — and especially that year, I felt proud that I rose to the occasion and triumphed over seemingly overwhelming challenges.

As I begin my last year of law school, I could not feel more different; I feel completely disconnected from the triumph and excitement I experienced in the past. This Ramzan has been filled with challenges beyond hunger and thirst — challenges that aren’t going to end with the Eid celebrations.

Each day this Ramzan, I was confronted by the reality of an increasingly hostile public discourse on Islam. Terrifyingly, it had even resulted in violence fueled by the hate.

And this Eid, it’s all coming to a crossroads in a way that couldn’t have been more dramatic. Today’s holiday comes a day before ninth anniversary of September 11, at a time when headlines are dominated by the vitriolic Park 51 mosque controversy and until yesterday, the impending burning of Qur’ans by a Florida pastor.

For the past month, it has felt like I cannot escape images of hate. I work for a blog and one of my daily jobs is to scour the headlines of dozens of news sources every morning. At some point a few weeks ago, beyond what was necessary for my work, I had to stop reading the news — it was just too painful. Despite all of the activism by fellow American Muslims and allies, I have to admit that is hard to be optimistic right now.

My frustration, disappointment, anger and sadness have undoubtedly been exacerbated by the fact that the hostility that now seems so apparent was something I had never expected to manifest, at least on this national scale, dominating the most sacred of American spaces. I can’t make sense of the fact that I didn’t see it coming.

Most of all, I feel a bit naïve. I feel duped by my own optimism and limited experiences of what it’s like to be Muslim in the U.S. Given the opportunities I’ve been afforded and the thriving faith communities of which I have been a part, until this Ramzan I strongly believed for a long time that being a Muslim in the U.S. today is one of the most incredible places to be a Muslim ever.

I believed this despite knowing about the terrible things that have happened to some Muslim Americans and others since 9/11. I wore hijab for 12 years and experienced it myself. But I guess I always thought that the perpetrators were a select few. Or fringe figures that would be confronted by forthright leaders and the power of rights afforded to Americans by law. I certainly did not anticipate that the perpetrators would be the people with whom I expect to share my perceptions about right and wrong.

I believed in the exceptionalism of being an American Muslim so much that I wrote about it and talked about it. I traveled around the world with the State Department, telling Muslims from Bishkek to Lahore to Vienna about the beauty, diversity and creativity I found in American Islam. I told them, it was in large part, a result of the values Americans have fought for that serve to protect our citizens.

Today, that narrative does not seem to match up with what I hear and see around me.

I wonder if my positive perception over the past few years was an illusion. Was I was so self-satisfied with my life that I became blind to what others felt? Did I just surround myself with like-minded people to the point where my sense of reality was warped? Right now, I don’t know; I do know that I will not let myself close my eyes to what is happening around me ever again.

While I feel confused and hurt, I find threads of hope in the law. More comforting than that, however, are the people I see around me, working on building coalitions and seeking to change our world. Among many others are My Faith My Voice, the grassroots effort by American Muslims to creatively show diverse Muslim voices, and right here at Yale, the Common Ground Campaign.

This Eid, I pray that next year, I can celebrate in the way I always have, celebrating hardships that end after a month and appreciating those who chose to speak up for America’s ideals.

And I dream that I’ll remember my country of this Ramzan as an aberration.

Noorain Khan is a third-year student at the Law School.

Comments

  • Anonymous Bosh

    – “Noorain Khan is a third-year student
    at the [Yale] Law School (and a
    Rhodie and alumna of Rice and
    Oxford).”
    – Noorain Khan “traveled
    around the world with the State
    Department…”
    – Noorain Khan, when
    “confused and hurt,” “find[s] threads
    of hope in the law” that protects
    her, values her, and gives her the
    very same rights of any U.S. citizen,
    without regard to her origins or
    background.
    – And because of those
    laws, here in the U.S. Noorain Khan
    “can celebrate [Ramadan] in the way
    [she] always [has],” “can” as in “is
    able,” as in “is free to do so.”

    And yet…

    Noorain Khan is newly concerned about, without enumeration, “the terrible things that have happened to some Muslim Americans and others since 9/11.”

    **My** concerns are *not* new; here are just a few:

    According to the World Evangelical Alliance, over 200 million Christians in at least 60 countries are denied fundamental human rights solely because of their faith (and, in 2009, more than 150,000 were denied their *lives*).

    In *France* in 2009, French Muslim graves were desecrated near Arras. A pig’s head was hung from a headstone and profanities insulting Islam and Muslims were daubed on some graves.
    On December 13, 2009, The Mosque of Castres in southern France, was vandalized in the night

    In the Sudan, it is estimated that as many as 200,000 people, mostly of the Dinka group, were taken into *slavery* by Muslim raiders during the Second Sudanese Civil War.

    In August 2009 six Christians including 4 women and a child were *burnt alive* by Muslim militants and a church set ablaze in Gojra, Pakistan.

    In February 2004, a nine-year old Tajik Muslim girl was *stabbed to death* in Saint Petersburg by suspected far-right skinheads.

    In Januray 2010, after the Eastern Christmas Mass, three Muslim men opened fire, *killing* seven Copts and injuring one other (and a Muslim policeman standing guard).

    Saudi Arabia is an Islamic state that restricts all other religions (to include Shiite Islam), including the possession of religious items such as the Bible, crucifixes, and Stars of David. Christians are arrested and lashed in public for practicing their faith openly (Jews… ?).

    The 2005 controversy whereby cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad were published in a Danish newspaper led to riots and the *burning of the Norwegian and Danish Embassies* in Syria.

    Contrary to the fears and feelings of Noorain Khan, third-year student at Yale Law, etc., etc., and despite current tensions, it very well may be that the U.S. is among the best–if not *the* best–country for a Muslim…

  • theantiyale

    It is only in the last 45 of the 234 years which have elapsed since 1776 that America has ***begun*** to try to live up to its Constitution (…created equal . . .life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness) and we haven’t done that good a job of it even though we’ve made dramatic improvements.

    However, for some reason we think that the rest of the world ought to live by our Cosntitutional “benchmarks” (or maybe the benchmarks of the Declaration of Human Rights) and that they ought to do so RIGHT NOW !

    If it took us 189 years to BEGIN to live up to our own rhetoric, why should we expect other countries to be any different, especially if they don’t share our Constitutional insights?

    PK

  • gzuckier

    I don’t think Noorain Khan is responsible for the international persecution of Christians (and/or Jews and/or Jews and/or Bahai and/or……), nor for the theocratic tyranny of Saudi Arabia, nor for the violently censorial overreaction to the famous cartoons; I therefore must deplore the fact that Noorain Khan cannot move freely through the United States without good reason to fear, a fact which should be evident to all who have not deliberately blinded themselves with ideology.

  • Anonymous Bosh

    Noorain Khan can move freely through the United States, both legally and practically. I rather doubt she would garner even a passing glance, much less whatever dire outcomes gzuckier foresees.

    I ask again: To what other country could a young Muslima emigrate, choose (indeed, be *allowed* to choose) to dispense with the veil, and then commence upon a steady stream of accomplishments bound only by her own merit and unfettered by custom, religion, or sex? Her native Pakistan? *France*?

    She is as free as she will ever be; she is free right now, protected by the laws of her adopted country, encouraged to extend herself to her fullest abilities. She is fed, she is housed, she is educated, she is afforded civil rights, legal and police protections, same as anyone else. Her fears are no greater, really, than anyone else’s (and the fears of nearly all Americans, excepting perhaps those doomed to the most desolated inner cities, are truly minor in comparison to normal, daily fears of the global average).

    The normal–and real–dangers she faces on New Haven’s streets have nothing to do with her religion, much more to do with her perceived status and affluence.

    As an anectodal corollary, I offer today’s [news][1] regarding someone *else’s* Ramadan thoughts.

    Thankfulness (to parents, to circumstances, to America, to What Powers There Be, to G-d) is in such short supply these days, entirely underrated, entirely freeing.

    [1]: http://www.cnn.com/2010/LIVING/09/10/ramadan.roadtrip.folo/index.html

  • Hitch2

    As much as it pains me, I am obligated to join with the negative judgments of this editorial. The bad, hokey, adolescent prose, the self-congratulatory tone, the sappy entitlement, the quickness to accuse America of bigotry. Let me try to take it all in.

    Khan is at the best law school in the country, given opportunities no Christian or Jews would ever be afforded in a Muslim country, and she uses her time writing editorials condemning this America which gave her such wonderful opportunities for bigotry against Muslims because Americans don’t like the smell of one very-sketchy-Imam’s desire to build a very-sketchily-funded Mosque over the graveyard of 3,000 Americans killed by terrorists killing in the name of Islam to the subsequent eruption of celebration on streets throughout the Muslim world??? Leave aside the whole issue of whether or not the ground zero mosque is a good idea or not–even if you think it is a good idea, can you really call the protests against it, given all this, a bigoted backlash? You must have some serious balls if you wish to do that.

    It’s actually kind of sad that people like Khan are at Yale Law School these days. I’m guessing she got in by writing some really sappy essay about how this one guy might have given her a mean look this one time, or that maybe she got turned down for a date or a job once and she just knows it’s because she’s a Muslim. Dozens of Yale Law School professors read the essay, fell down the floor weeping, and proceeded to damn all of those Non-Yale-Americans for their vitriolic bigotry.

    By the way, has anybody so far made note of the fact that all of the data indicate that anti-semitism is a much, much bigger problem in the U.S. than “Islamophobia”? That’s a simple fact that, you know, people who care about reality and stuff, occasionally like to point out. And America is without question the most philo-semitic country in human history. And the hate crimes that are committed against Jews are disproportionately committed by Muslims.

    Really, stop pretending to be a victim. You’re not. You’re just pathetic.

  • Hitch2

    And, before someone accuses me of making an angry comment, I want to clarify my attitude. It’s really not one of anger, it’s sadness. It’s sadness that a girl at Yale Law School would so thoroughly fall prey to the Western world’s cult of victimhood and the Muslim world’s cult of grievance that she would so completely reduce her identity to victim status, that she feels such a need to go about feeling aggrieved all day. The adjective ‘pathetic’ is abused. But it applies to this editorial, and this life-style. Pathetic. Pathetic. Pathetic.

  • Veritas

    Khan is *entitled* to the same rights and treatment as any other American under the law. It’s ridiculous to claim that her attendance at a *private* elite institution somehow makes her ineligible to discuss problems in our society. **Hieronymous**, you can keep posting international headlines, but the fact that other countries have human rights problems does not excuse or diminish our problems.

    **Hitch2**, your comment demonstrates a deep-seated “us-versus-them” xenophobic attitude. Let me dissect one paragraph of yours to demonstrate:

    > Khan is at the best law school in the country, given opportunities no Christian or Jews would ever be afforded in a Muslim country,

    First of all, you’re making a blanket statement without proof. And even if we assume what you’re saying is accurate, so what? Is Khan somehow responsible for what goes on in countries that are not hers, that have different standards? And watch out when you use the passive tense: “given opportunities” by whom? Here’s how it worked: Yale, a private, secular institution, admitted Noorain Khan to YLS. Nobody did Khan a favor or made an exception for her because she was Muslim. Her application was considered by YLS the same way anyone else’s would be, and they found hers more compelling than others.

    >and she uses her time writing editorials condemning this America which gave her such wonderful opportunities for bigotry against Muslims because Americans don’t like the smell of one very-sketchy-Imam’s desire to build a very-sketchily-funded Mosque over the graveyard of 3,000 Americans killed by terrorists killing in the name of Islam to the subsequent eruption of celebration on streets throughout the Muslim world???

    You didn’t offer any evidence for this claim, either. She probably spent the lesser part of one day writing an editorial about some members of this great country of ours, which was founded on the premise of “All men are created equal,” who are bigoted. And when you say “condeming this America,” you mean, “condeming her country” (neither of which accurately describe her letter) — if she worked for the State Dept, we know she’s a U.S. citizen.

    >Leave aside the whole issue of whether or not the ground zero mosque is a good idea or not–even if you think it is a good idea, can you really call the protests against it, given all this, a bigoted backlash? You must have some serious balls if you wish to do that.

    Yes, you can, and it doesn’t require “serious balls,” just critical thought. What you’re asserting is called an [argumentum ad populum][1], and it is one of the basic types of fallacious arguments. Just because a bunch of people think something doesn’t make it right.

    [1]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argumentum_ad_populum

  • Arafat

    Noorain writes, “For the past month, it has felt like I cannot escape images of hate… I had to stop reading the news — it was just too painful.”

    Ms. Khan, this recently ended Ramadan Muslim terrorists killed 1,028 people in 226 separate incidents*. Why don’t you write about this pain, this hate? What about the families and loved ones of the 1,028 murdered in the name of Islam by Muslims? No pain felt by you for them?

    Ms. Khan, you might find the answer to your concerns by looking at your co-religionists, their behavior and their history. Remember, Ms. Khan, your prophet was a warrior. He killed, he tortured, he raped and he pillaged and enslaved, and his followers followed in his footsteps just as he demanded they do. Read the Koran, Hadiths and Sira if you did not know this. Whether you want to deny this reality, or not, this is the truth. 9/11, nor the 1,000+ killed during this past Ramadan are not exceptions, but are the rule within Islam and within Islam’s bloody, sadistic, supremacist, theocratic history.

    You can attempt to twist this reality around, and it may actually work on some naïve, unlearned or stupid Americans, but the bad vibes you are experiencing this Ramadan compared to previous Ramadans is the fact that America and Americans are slowly waking up to what Islam is really all about – and it’s not pretty, and it’s only going to get more intense.

    Your continuing attempt to obfuscate is no longer cutting it, and thank God – and not Allah – for that.

    • For specific details on the 226 terrorist incidents visit the following website. Scroll halfway down the website and you will find the number killed, the number of wounded and the location of each incident.

    http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/

  • AntiZionist

    Firstly, to the O.P.: You’ve expressed an opinion and it’s as valid as any. I can understand why these would be troubling and demoralizing time for a woman of your faith. *Eid Mubarak.*

    Secondly: Arafat, your play the same game over and over again with your feeble arguments. You cite instances of Muslim “terror” as if they take place in a vacuum; as if the Mujahedin wake up every morning to a peaceful world and unoccupied homelands and say to themselves, *”you know, it’s a nice day. I think I’ll go blow some people up.”*

    You want to talk about bodycounts? Ok. How about the estimated 97,000 – 106,000 *civilian* deaths in the Iraq War *so far?* [Yes. That Many.][1]Are their blood and tears worth less than American tears? Are their children worth less than American or Israeli children? I won’t think less of you if you say “yes.” I’ll at least be able to commend you for your honesty, but I doubt you have the courage for it.

    Yeah. It’s not pretty. Especially if you live in Iraq: a country that had *nothing to do with the attacks on 9/11/01.*

    You talk about the “supremacist” and “sadistic” history of Islam: how about the Davidic Supremacy of Yahweh’s “Chosen People?” How about the sadism of Christians during the Crusades or, better yet, the sadism of Christian Serbs against Muslims in the Yugoslav wars of the early-mid 1990s? Or the viciousness perpetuated by the Russian Army in Chechnya?

    Torture? [Check.][2]
    Rape? [Check,][3][Check, Chetnik.][4]
    Murder? [Da. Check.][5]

    Perhaps you should pull the plank from your eye before you point out the splinter in the eye of Islam.

    Then we have the condescending assertions from Hitch2, most of which were nicely dismantled by **Veritas.**

    Hitch2: the only thing pathetic is your whining about Anti-Jewish hate crime statistics (documentation?) and “anti-Semitism.” I’m waiting for you to start passing out tissues before you launch into a tirade about the suffering of Six Million and the collective martyrdom that the Holocaust seems to have bestowed upon the Jews. You’d think that they were the only people who ever suffered on Earth.

    Pathetic indeed: pathetic excuses for argumentation and pathetic excuses for human beings. You’re a fine lot of parasites.

    [1]: http://www.iraqbodycount.org/analysis/reference/
    [2]: http://srebrenica-genocide.blogspot.com/2008/11/torture-of-bosniaks-in-sanjak-serbia.html
    [3]: http://genocideinvisegrad.wordpress.com/2009/02/23/rape-warfare-in-visegradvilina-vlas/
    [4]: http://www.bu.edu/law/central/jd/organizations/journals/international/volume27n1/documents/Marino.pdf
    [5]: http://www.crimesofwar.org/chechnya-mag/chech-interview.html

  • SY10

    Arafat, you’re aware, aren’t you, that the vast majority of those killed in terrorist attacks by Muslims are Muslims themselves? Seems like a strange religion that would endorse the killing of its own members. Perhaps, instead, the truth is that the vast majority of Muslims would no more consider killing innocent civilians in a terrorist attack than you or I would, and that those who commit these atrocities use their religion as an excuse for their actions though it is not the cause of them.

    Moreover, though I would argue that your interpretation of the Qu’ran and other Islamic traditions as unambiguously supporting violence against non-believers is a misinterpretation (as is your understanding of Islamic history as exceptionally violent), even if you are right, it has little bearing on the question of whether Islam as a religion today is inherently violent. What matters to the character of a religion is how its followers understand and practice it. The vast majority of Muslims do not engage in violence (surely you cannot dispute this) and do not believe the murder of innocents to be justified. Thus, it seems silly to call Islam a violent religion on the basis of either its texts or its history (either of which would condemn nearly every other major religion as well). If its believers consider their religion non-violent – and the vast majority of them do in the case of Islam – then it is.

    Finally, it’s important to accept that many Muslims worldwide (probably the majority) endorse horrendous beliefs in the realm of things like women’s rights and gay rights. As someone who is no fan of religion generally, I have no problem admitting that. But those beliefs are much less prevalent in American Islam, and to judge American Muslims on account of the oppression of women in Iran and Saudi Arabia is no more fair than to judge mainstream American Christians on the basis of the treatment of gays in Uganda or the Caribbean.

  • Arafat

    SY10,

    Mohammed was a killer, a rapist and a megalomaniac. Are you suggesting Islam and its adherents are not influenced by this? I suppose then the fact that Jesus or Buddha lived the way they did is immaterial too.

    They say that in modern times when Muslims first immigrate to an area it starts out being a peaceful transition. (This is in sharp contrast to Islam’s history where Muslim violence was all many people knew.) It is only after Muslim’s demographics reach a high enough level do they start placing increasing demands on that country. We are seeing that in Europe and are beginning to see this in America too.

    Once Muslim demogrpahics are high enough their demands escalate and their violent acts do too. We see that today in Indonesia, Kashmir, Malaysia, Nigeria, southern Russia, etc…

    And once Muslim demogrpahics are the majority we see most all freedoms eroded and most all non-Muslims living as second class citizens. Ultimately Muslims destroy all diversity wherever they live long enough. The Middle East, once one of the most diverse regions in the wrold is now almost 100% Muslim Women, gays, transexuals, non-Muslims renerally live in fear and behind closed doors.

    So, SY10, when you remind us of the “more” tolerant nature of American Muslims it might make sense to put this in a broader context to better understand why it might be the case.

  • SY10

    Yes, the way Jesus and Buddha lived is immaterial. Religions have shone an astonishing capacity to conceive of their history in any way they please, regardless of how their founders/religious figures behaved. Do you really think that Christian states and people have not at times embraced despicable forms of violence, discrimination and brutality (and that there aren’t still a few today that do)? Or Buddhists for that matter – historically see anything from medieval and early modern Tibetans and Mongols to the Manchu emperors of China’s Qing Dynasty. For more modern examples, see the government of Myanmar which aside from being generally repressive and brutal actively discriminates against Christians and Muslims in promoting a state religion of Buddhism.

    None of these historical or modern examples should affect how we view Buddhists who practice their religion peacefully today and believe Buddhism to be a peaceful religion that bans harming living things. The same is true of Islam – and I’ve seen little evidence to suggest that very many American Muslims conceive of their religion as supporting violence.

  • FailBoat

    In 2002, [34 Percent of American Muslims][1] blamed Al Qaeda for the attacks of September 11th.

    [1]: http://www.hamilton.edu/news/muslim-america-poll/analysis?

  • Arafat

    SY10,

    I apologize for any misunderstanding. I hope I have not conveyed the impression that I believe all Buddhists, Christian, etc… are peace-loving people, and that all Muslims are not. I didn’t intend to convey this message.

    What I am trying to convey is that a religion founded in violence, by a violent sadist (Islam) is likely to perpetuate that pattern of behavior, and that it’s my opinion, this is exactly what has happened and is currently happening in Islam. That is not to say that there are not many, many, many Muslims who do not share Mohammed’s violent DNA. I know/we know this is not the case.

    I am also trying to convey the same thing about all the other major religions, i.e., they were founded by peace-loving men and women (generally speaking) and that although there have been countless examples you and I can point to where these religion’s adherents were sadistic, genocidal animals; these instances were not in keeping with the religion’s core precepts or with the example set by its prophets.

    When a religion is founded by a sadistic creep it’s a good bet its adherents will fall in line. Not all its adherents, but too many.
    When a religion is founded by peace-loving, compassionate people it’s a good bet its adherents will fall in line. Not all its adherents, but more than would be the case in the opposite situation (Islam).

  • Anonymous Bosh

    Hey look: [Guy burns Koran, loses job!][1]

    In [Oz][2], too, mebbe.

    And I would love love **love** to hear some Yale LAW students’ perspectives on J[ustice Breyer's comments][3] ostensibly equating the burning of a Koran with shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater (in that, since each can lead to death, neither is protected by the First Amendment). Thoughts?

    [More background][4]

    [1]: http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/2010/09/14/2010-09-14_koran_burner_derek_fenton_fired_from_his_job_at_nj_transit.html
    [2]: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/139640
    [3]: http://canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/27685
    [4]: http://townhall.com/columnists/DianaWest/2010/09/10/the_constitution_trumps_islamic_law/page/full/