Grade 7 French class.
9/11 Just happened.
I get asked- “does your mom dress like us or like them?”
And thinking back, I wish I had the confidence to say that she dressed like “them”, but I didn’t.
I responded with “she dresses like us”.
Us. T-shirt, Jeans.
My mom didn’t dress like us! My mom never dressed like us!
She always dressed like “them”.
She was “them!”
I WAS THEM!
My community was them!
But at school, post 9/11, I had to be an us.
But I couldn’t muster up the courage and the confidence at that time to be “them”.
Post 9/11 was a weird time.
It’s cool to see how confident young people of colour are these days in their own skin.
I wish I had that confidence back then to speak up.
Let me tell you how this actually started though.
The day before, one of my classmates was driving through Thorncliffe Park (If you don’t know- large South Asian/Muslim population). He saw a girl at a bus stop, wearing a kurta with a Mecca hoodie over it.
And in case you’re wondering, yes, I’m referring to Mecca, the streetwear brand.
Kris- the classmate, also wore Mecca. At that time, everyone at my school wore Mecca.
How could it be that this “Paki” girl also wore Mecca? And over some strange dress too?
So he brings it up at our table the next day.
I remember that feeling when I responded.
It was like I was watching myself. The words “like us” spilling out of my mouth while my stomach dropped and guilt spewed all over.
Again. “Like Us”. Tshirt, Jeans.
As a 12-year old, when the most popular words related to Muslims were “Osama” and “terrorist” it wasn’t a surprise that I responded the way I did.
But even now, there’s always something that stays with me.
“Them” was strange to Kris. Actually, 9/11 made things that were normal, seem a whole lot stranger.
The idea of strangeness…
Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Islam began as a something strange and it will return to being strange, so blessed are the strangers.” Source: Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 145
Will we always be them? Do we need to embrace what it means to be them? Being one of the strangers is tough.
So glad tidings to the strangers.