Michigan in Color: Moments of Silence

Wednesday, April 6, 2016 - 9:42pm

I grew up in a part of Karachi, Pakistan that most Pakistanis don’t have access to. Surrounded by privilege that was only enhanced by my American identity, I was protected from the terrorism and political warfare around me. It wasn’t until I moved back to Michigan, and the rest of my friends moved to various parts of Pakistan, that I started to worry about news headlines of bombings and death tolls.  

Over the years, I’ve woken up to numerous headlines of disaster and group chat conversations as tragic events unfolded outside my friends’ bubbles. I look up from my phone sometimes and wonder how the world around me could possibly be functioning when mine is caught in an endless series of moments of silence. I can’t help but contrast my life here and the struggles I face as a minority student, with the struggles they’re facing in Pakistan. It’s funny because in my eyes there’s no contest. Yet, they see headlines about Trump rallies and the rising number of hate crimes and ask me if I’m OK.

Though I always brush off their concerns, I can’t exactly say their worry for me is unfounded. As a Muslim woman who wears her hijab loud and proud, I’ve spent a lot of my time here at Michigan dealing with Islamophobic hate. I usually just roll my eyes and keep walking because caring seems like too much effort. That doesn’t really work for me on days when #stopIslam is written on the Diag, and the administration can’t seem to figure out how to handle it. Mother Nature can wash away the words (after we already did), but can’t wash away the sentiment.

As the attacks in Pakistan have escalated in severity over the years, I’ve spent many sleepless nights worrying about my friends there. I remember how excited I was when my friends and I split up and moved across the world. Through their Snapchats and texts, I had the opportunity to experience so much more than I could through just my own college experience. But as the world became a little less friendly, those new places were added to my list of worries.

I spent last week tossing and turning as I stayed up thinking about the tragedy in Lahore. Just a few days after the attacks, I remember staring at the xenophobia and Islamophobia written on the Diag, and then the remembrance of the victims of terror attacks right next to it: Paris, Brussels and, for once, even Pakistan. I sat and stared at the name of my home and wondered how anyone could think I could be a part of hurting it. If stopping Islam could stop terrorism, could stop bombs from wreaking havoc on the different pieces of my home, I wondered how they could think I wouldn’t advocate for it. If stopping Islam could keep me from the moments of panic that have been far too common, I wondered how they could think I wouldn’t advocate for it.