I’ve hesitated for a long time before finally deciding to write about what I wrote today. I guess the reason behind why it took me so long to finally talk about it is that I never thought I would ever be in this position. I grew up in a country governed by tolerance. Of course, I cannot talk on behalf of every Moroccan citizen, but in general, discrimination (except against women, and that I think is unfortunately a world problem) has never been an obstacle that anybody had to face. We are an African country where Black and White people live together, where Berbers and Arabs work together, where Muslims and Jews eat together. Millions of tourists every year come to Morocco. We welcome them in our country, sometimes in our homes… We smile at them. We cook for them and we learn from them, just as much as they learn from us. We are used to having this diversity and grew up right in the middle of it. Actually, I am proud to say that diversity is what makes Morocco what it is today, what defines it. Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to make Morocco sound like heaven on earth. We for sure have dozens of problems, if not hundreds of them. Some can easily be fixed. Others may never get fixed. However, not once have I heard somebody be a victim of racism in Morocco.
“Why would they let a terrorist come back here?” That is the sentence that a sixty year old woman said to what appeared to be her daughter, as she was looking at me, while we were all visiting the 9/11 memorial in New York. I could see horror in her eyes. Even worse, I could see fear in her daughter’s facial expression. I wanted to cry. I wanted to scream as I could feel this unusual pain in my chest. I was the one horrified. I was the one terrified. How could somebody ever think of me as being a terrorist? How could anybody look at me, look at the joyful nineteen year-old that I am and feel this need inside their heart of being scared? Do I look like a terrorist? Do I really look like someone who is at all harmful? And then it all started hitting me. The times when people would squeeze as far as they could away from me in the elevators, the times when they would either hasten their steps or slacken them as much as possible in order to get as far away as humanly possible from me and as quickly as their feet allowed them to. I thought it was all in my head. I thought it was nothing worth mentioning or even thinking about. But right there, in the middle of the 9/11 memorial, right between the two huge pools that were constructed there, it was all clear. Suddenly, everything became crystal clear.
I never thought I would ever have to feel like this. I honestly thought racism is a problem of the past millennium. I would hear about it on TV or read about it in the newspapers and think: “Thank God this is over now”. Well, let me tell you it is not! I was living in a bubble, a bubble that burst right in the middle of my face. It hurts, you know. It really deeply hurts. I bet I wouldn’t even have had this problem if I was not covering my hair or even better, if I was a man. In both of these cases, nobody would even think of being racist towards me because I am just another white girl who walks the streets of the United States of America. But no! Things cannot be that easy. Hijab cannot simply be a sign that a woman really believes in her God. It must mean that she wants to blow up the entire planet! People, please wake up. Open your eyes! Just because I wear the veil does not mean I am a terrorist. Just because my friend has a beard does not mean he is an extremist. Just because we are Muslims and proud of showing it to the world does not mean we should be feared.
I am nineteen years old. I am a student from Morocco who is currently on my study abroad semester in George Washington University. I am young and ambitious. I love life and enjoy every single bit of it. There is nothing better than this feeling of “being alive” when doing things we love. In my case, I feel “complete” when I am singing or writing. These two hobbies are my soul mates. I am not different. I am not any more different than any of you guys. We all have different religions. This doesn’t make us different. It just makes us normal human beings with different beliefs. Do not hurt your brother: this is what every single religion in the world believes in. This is even what atheists believe in. So please, don’t hurt me with your words. Don’t hurt me with your actions. Don’t hurt Muslims. Don’t hurt Arabs. Don’t hurt Black people and don’t hurt and don’t hurt and don’t hurt… After all, we are all the same: we are all human beings…