Isolated In The Present, Worried About The Future
​I want to write about how it feels being a visible Muslim woman going about my day in the GTA.  In recent years, as lies and unbalanced coverage of Muslims in the media are a regular occurrence, I have been afraid to go out of my home.  When I am forced to leave, I walk with my head down and avoid eye contact with people, I developed this fear due to the fact that everyone whom I had made eye contact with in the past would quickly look away and some would even put their nose in the air and puff their faces out of disgust at seeing me.  I have developed an anxiety towards Caucasian people because of this treatment and I am sure many well-meaning Caucasians have ignored me because of the way that I am acting now. I must look like a dishonest person, avoiding contact with anyone in fear of being disrespected.
It was not like this years ago, even though I looked the same way.  I always wish someone would come and talk to me, make useless chit chat about how the vegetables in the store today have just arrived and how lucky we are to be the first ones to choose the best ones.  I miss those days where people would stop me and ask for directions or ask me to take their photograph (these were the days before selfies). I miss the days when people would treat me like a normal person and not be overly nice or overly rude.
People might think why I choose to be so different, why I can’t just change the way I dress to not stick out so much, and then maybe I will be treated normally.  But many people have forgotten that before, our differences made us normal and understood that everyone’s way of life is shaped by their experiences and so we were all naturally different and androgyny was looked at as uninspired boringness.  The Toronto I grew up in was inspired by creative fashion and embraced new cultures and ideas as food for thought. I loved growing up here in such a diverse space and hope for the next generation to see the value of diversity.
I know that my behaviour is not helping people to connect with me but until my anxiety dissipates and I can grow the confidence inside me, I want to hide.  I don’t have all the answers to why ISIS is doing what they are doing, why there is a misunderstanding between the Sunnis and the Shias. I want to avoid these questions. I am just as confused as everyone else as to why these issues are always in the news and wondering isn’t there anything else happening in the world.  I am sure some Muslims are helping their communities, where are those headlines. Or at least can we just please stop talking about the bad things they do as with every other community. There are bad things happening everywhere in the world that has nothing to do with Muslims, really!
I fear for the next generation of people who will never know the feeling of positivity and inquisitiveness when seeing something new, something different and wanting to know more about it.  Now, differences and a thing to suspect to keep an eye on. We have lost our open-mindedness because of the fear portraying in the media. I wish we could do something about it. I don’t know how the German people were able to remove those feelings of suspect which turned to hate which turned to superiority during the Second World War.  They have succeeded, maybe we should learn from them before it is too late.
Y. A. R.
Toronto, ON