.بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Pena Palace, Sintra, Portugal. Photo Creds: Mazhar Alam, Allah hummabārik.

It’s when you find yourself far away from something, or someplace, or someone. It’s the handful of images you might see; the way you seek to capture entireties of experience, the moment-by-moment, the humanity, via words that simply… oversimplify.

Exaggerate. Lie. Get it so wrong; they’re far away from the truth. The origin of the words: projects from whom they are, onto an oft-unsuspecting victim.

It’s the way that even tiny drip-drops of water can erode what had seemingly been the sturdiest of rocks. Drip-drop, drip-drop. If it is done on the same point, and enough.

“To control a people you must first control what they think about themselves and how they regard their history and culture. And when your conqueror makes you ashamed of your culture and your history, he needs no prison walls and no chains to hold you.”

John Henrik Clarke

It’s weird, because I, as a Muslim, who has grown up, Alhamduli Llah, in a bustling Muslim family, community, Ummah: I am part of this. And yet, those images have still managed to affect me.

You see: man with a long beard. You might think: ‘extremist’, ‘unpleasant’, ‘harsh’. But: that’s my grandfather. And he was a beautiful man. That’s a lot of the other beautiful men I have ever known.

Woman wearing a headscarf: terrorist? ‘Boring’, ‘oppressed’? I know, and have known, too many fellow Muslim women personally, to know that this is not the case. But this is often how we are shown to be. [Does it begin to affect one’s self-image? I think it does make one more conscious of how others might be viewing us.]

You go on the BBC website: Muslims. Forced marriage, ‘Other’, a look at the ‘alien people’ through detached, oft hypocritical eyes. Like a Palestinian child who throws rocks at a tank is a ‘terrorist’ in the making; ‘barbarian’, uncivilised. ‘Not at all’, it seems, like the European blond-haired blue-eyed child holding a sniper: ‘freedom-fighter’. Adorable, admirable.

Netflix. Search ‘Muslim’, and see what you see. It’s almost… uncanny. Like: that ‘could’ well be me. But… it’s not, and I know it’s not. It’s an attempt to say that this is who you are. It’s false, rigid, oversimplified; it finds itself painted with a particular ideological flavour. And there is power in the stories we tell, and how frequently and widely we tell them. There is power in the ‘small’ voice that stands up, perhaps despite its fear, and says: “Actually…”

We try to keep the lies out; we fight back with our s[words]. We love powerfully, unmissably. We try to illuminate ourselves with truth. About ourselves, about the other Muslims we know; about Truth itself..

The simplest-seeming ‘answer’ seems to quite often be… quite wrong. It’s not so simple.

To speak beautiful words, and to write them, and to not let barking and false voices, braying cacophonously like donkeys braying, speak over you; overpower you. Whether another hates you, is misinformed/ignorant about you, is envious, even, of you: keep speaking. Drip-drop, might go the water upon the rock. But little did they know:

The rock has Allah with him, he hopes. The shelter, the shield and the strength: patience and prayer. Renewed at least five times a day.

And words, which join together, and they become streams, and then rivers, and then oceans, unstoppable. Words, which find themselves True, and Good, and Beautiful.

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