A few weeks after I arrived in this village hell to take up a teaching position I was sort of invited to a party.
I knew there would be the usual drinking copious amounts of alcohol while folks stood around listening to corny R&B tunes from back in the eighties.
About four minutes into my arrival I was introduced to a serious looking coloured man in his late fifties or maybe even mid-sixties.
Word was that his wife was a politician and that the shiny Mercedes at the gate was his car.
He seemed reluctant to speak to me. It took about three or four "come and meet Ridwan" calls before he stood directly in front of me with blood shot eyes.
As I smiled at him a woman shouted in my direction, "Are you a Pakistani?".
"No I was born here," I said in her direction.
"Are you Muslim?, the blood shot eyes man said directly into my face.
"Yes I am Muslim," I replied.
"Ya but he is an alright kind of ou (guy)," one of the guys I knew added to what was becoming a tense situation of accusatory eyes and nervous shifting feet.
"I hear you teach politics," the blood shot eyes man said. "I do," I replied.
"Well you betta be teaching dem that Iran is the devil and is going to destroy the world because they are fanatics. They gonna blow up Israel and the whole world will suffer because it will be world war three," he added.
At this point I knew it was important for me to find an exit. The nervous laughter around me indicated that if I was to take a stand it could grow ugly.
I turned to talk to other folks. I left a smile across my face not because I was happy but because I had been there before.
Once in downtown Baltimore a white man 'accused' me of being Puerto Rican. I did not back down or even correct his racist ass.
"Yep I am Puerto Rican and proud of it too," I remember saying.
"Well you should not be. This is the United States and not Puerto Rico," he howled back at me.
I looked at him in utter disbelief. I wanted to tell him that Puerto Rico is part of the US, if only a colonized territory, but I did not.
My eyes had barely left his face when his female companion shouted "Get out of this establishment, you are not welcome here."
I looked over the counter at my white neighbor who ran the little hole in the wall eatery as if to say "help me".
He just looked away in silence. I walked to the door and left. It was 1997 and my head was spinning.
I made my way away from blood shot eyes. A kinder face started talking about this and that and my Muslim identity and presence was 'excused'.
The night progressed too slowly. I left in disgust about two hours later and vowed never to be around drunk folk ever again.
My childhood friend who invited me never really grasped what happened that night. I never said anything to him and when he called me this past Saturday to join him for another party I declined.
The Qur'an speaks to the manner that incidents like this should be handled when God says: "show forgiveness, speak for justice and avoid the ignorant." (7:199)
I'm working on the forgiveness part. It is not going to be easy.
Very few Muslims will be left unscathed by the rising anti-Muslim sentiment that defines our current historical moment.
Just last night my mother related to me that a Christian woman she met days ago at the bedside of a very ill friend took her aside and told her that she was not allowed to use the words "God" and "Lord".
"I was confused to hear her say this to me but I did not want to make a scene," my mother said.
Instead, my mother let the incident boil in her being for a week.
"How dare a Christian tell me that I cannot use those words, God and Lord do not belong to Christianity only. It belongs to all the believers," moms argued.
True to form me moms called that ignorant heffa up and laid into her.
"She was shocked by my confrontation. I told her never to tell me another word about my religion until she read the Qur'an. Do you know that she has lived among Muslims all seventy years of her life and has never ever even read a verse from the Qur'an?," my mother said.
"Yeah I do mummy," I said.
Many anti-Muslim bigots who are Christian are not even aware that Islam is the third Abrahamic religion and that Islam grows out of Judaism and Christianity.
For those who would want us to be the new devil it matters little.
Being Muslim is an accusation in itself.
AnyHowze, I gots to go ... got some bombing to do before my workday is over ;0)