***Disclaimer: This is NOT a celebration of any death at any time, but this is my reflection on the past 10 years as a Muslim-American and what all this recent news translates to me. I don’t believe that I, or any other person, can judge any human being. I will leave that up to God. This is just my reflection of 10 years about a character who seemed to change the world around me.***
Bismillah al-Rahman al-Raheem (In the name of God, most Gracious most Merciful)
I am writing this in reflection of the most recent news of Osama bin Laden’s death. When I first heard there was a national security issue to be addressed at 10:30 pm on a Sunday night, I assumed it was something about Libya. Then leaked sources stated it wasn’t, and I started to worry that my worst nightmare has come to realization: A tyrannosaurus rex was cloned and had gotten lose in North Carolina. All the scenes from Jurassic Park started to replay in my head and I started to think of places to take cover and if I had enough gas in my car to get me far. But it wasn’t… and the rumors started to come out that maybe bin Laden was dead….officially. I actually had my doubts, we haven’t heard much from him recently and I figured he had been dead for awhile.
I was shocked. When it was actually announced, then I was ecstatic, then I was worried, then I reflected. This is what caught me.
Ten years ago, I was taking a math test in my 8th grade pre-Algebra class. And a teacher rushed in and told us to stop and watch the news. I remember seeing the World Trade Center in smoke, the first plane had just hit and no one knew what was going on–by the time we got to PE–it was confirmed this was an attack. It was an attack claimed by al-Qaeda, lead by a man named Osama bin Laden. I had no clue who they were and they sounded Arab, so I started to get nervous. What made me even more nervous was that my teachers were crying and calling their families in New York and I was getting stares…lots of them.
I guess it’s no surprise when you are one of the 2-3 girls wearing a scarf on your head at the time of a national crisis that involves people that look just like you. I was lucky though, I had my cousin with me in school and I felt safe with her. The following weeks were OK and I had great teachers, counselors, neighbors and friends who were nothing but supportive and loving. I know there were others that were not so lucky…
But given recent events, I thought about the past 10 years, and I realized something.
I have become a stronger, more confident Muslim woman.
I am proud of what I wear on my head. It has made me who I am today. And I know that every time I put on my hijab (headscarf) and walk out the door, I am fighting that stereotype that Mr. bin Laden set up. I know that I am counteracting every single stupid stereotype people have a Muslim woman. I work, I go to school, I have a life, feelings, independent thought (sometimes too much for my parents and probably too much for my own good–but it works out). No person can deprive me of my right to live a life that I have worked hard for and I will not allow anyone on either extreme to intimidate me. I have been taught well by my teachers to stand up and stand tall because what I wear on my head, and what I believe is not something that shameful. It’s what makes me, me.
So if anything, thank you bin Laden, for trying so hard, because you made me want to try even harder to be a better person and a better representative of Islam. Because you were not.