“Have you heard of the term Islamophobia?” I was having a coffee with my German friend and thought to hear his opinion about this topic. I’ve seen it a lot on social media and thought to discuss this with him. “Yes, but I don’t agree with the term. A phobia is something clinical – like agoraphobia or claustrophobia – and nowadays we’re using that term to define almost everything we either hate or dislike or have a strong negative opinion about. It’s not correct. If it’s not something clinical, if it’s not a disorder, you shouldn’t call it a phobia. Islamophobia is nonexistent.”
I realized he was right. No one is having an anxiety attack when they’re near a Muslim. No one has been diagnosed with certain symptoms when they hear the word “Islam” or are physically near a Muslim. Islamophobia is just a word that reflects the negative opinion of the religion Islam, probably because of the all the terrorist attacks that have been linked with this religion.
However, while this “Islamophobia” is mainly known among the Western population, I was well aware of it in the Middle Eastern population, as well. Here’s the difference between the two populations. While most Western people have developed this fear or hate based on social media and news reports, most Middle Eastern people have developed these negative feelings because of actual experiences. I can’t tell you everyone’s story, but I can tell you mine. And I can assure you that it resembles a lot of people’s stories from the Middle East. If you made it this far, please read until the end. There might be a surprise for you.
While Europe was dealing with World War I, at the same time, the Middle East was dealing with The Armenian Genocide. In 1915, my grandmother’s grandparents were killed by Muslims. Their two children, let’s call them John and a Sara – my great-grandparents – fled with their aunt and made it safely to Iraq. Sara married Benjamin whose parents had been through the same massacre. Benjamin had three brothers and two sisters. He and his two sisters were taken by his aunt to flee the country, but his two sisters died from hunger and from trying to eat grass on their way to Iraq, because there was simply no other food available. One of his siblings, a brother, was taken with a family to Syria. And his other two brothers were taken by yet another family to Lebanon. The entire family was torn apart.
Sara gave birth to three girls; one of them is my grandmother. Life wasn’t so bad; as long as we minded our own business, we were left alone. However, that didn’t mean that your life was secure. Let’s fast-forward. It’s 1970 and the Muslims demand from my family to give them their three houses and 12 ranches they worked so hard for. Again, we lose almost everything. You have to keep in mind that Christians are in the minority in Iraq and the only option is to give in. Or be murdered.
It’s 1998, I’m 9 years old and my parents decide to flee the country. Again, religion is the cause. The fact that we are Christians and they are Muslims is okay to us, but it is not okay to them. One night, we grabbed our luggage, our most important possessions (this included a few pictures, my grandmother’s necklace, my grandfather’s hat), and never looked back. I have no memory of the journey to Europe; they think I blocked it from the fear I experienced. Even though I still ask a lot of questions about the past, I have no desire to recollect those memories myself. There is probably a good reason that I don’t remember anything anymore.
It’s 2001 and my best friend is a Muslim girl. I’m 12-years-old and I love her like a sister. You see, as children, we don’t know about hate until someone learns us that it exists. I have never hated a Muslim. I have never hated any human being. Christianity was a big part of my upbringing and – despite what you see on social media and the actions and words of people that call themselves Christians – the core of everything was love. Love and accept one another, unconditionally.
It’s 2013 and we get a call from my grandparents and aunt. They tell us that my grandfather died. My grandparents and aunt were the only ones left in Syria and were trying to survive in a city that was being bombed. One night, the people there decided to bomb near their house and my grandfather had died in his sleep. He already had heart problems and they suspect that the bombings that night were a huge scare that his heart stopped beating. That’s all I know. That’s all I need to know.
I have every right to hate the entire religion Islam and everyone that wants to be part of it, because “those people” literally murdered a part of my family merely for the fact that they were Christians and not Muslims. They physically and mentally forced us to leave our country. The same people that called themselves friends of our family, chose to turn against us and have caused my family a huge amount of physical and mental pain and bad memories. Yet, I don’t hate them. Because I shouldn’t judge anyone based on religion or anything else for that matter. There is no doubt that there are far better human beings that are Muslims than ones that call themselves Christians. Nothing defines a human being other than his own acts of kindness. However, I still am very cautious when I interact with one. And I hope you don’t judge or blame me for admitting that.
Stop saying that there is no reason to fear Muslims when you have lived your entire life in the Western world without being through any wars or hardships beyond family feuds and your own mental state of misery. Stop telling me how to feel. I have my own reasons for my own thoughts and feelings.
Stop calling it Islamophobia. It’s not a clinical disorder. Islamophobia is nonexistent, but having fears is a real thing. Having fears and a negative opinion about a religion can be caused by real life experiences. It doesn’t make you a bad person, it just makes you human. You’ve had some bad experiences and you learn from them. You learn to be cautious and more careful. I do not hate nor judge any human being on this planet. I am, however, cautious about who I let in my life and who I choose to trust. Whether you want to judge me based on that is up to you. Your opinion and thoughts are your own, and I have mine.