Less than a week after Muslim community leaders told The Vancouver Observer about the need for a North American Muslim Harlem Renaissance, fueled by the talent, intellect and social contributions of US and Canadian Muslim youth, Newsweek seems to have offered a kind of call to arms.
The magazine prompted its readers Monday to use the hashtag #MuslimRage to Tweet about its cover story on anti-American violence in the Muslim World, penned by renowned neo-conservative Ayaan Hirsti Ali.
Accordingly, North American Muslims hijacked a hashtag essentially designed to fuel rage and stereotypes against them with artful comments on everything and anything that upsets North American Muslims.
The comments ranged from everyday logistic concerns posed by life in the West to comments on Western society as a whole and the foreign and domestic policy of Western governments.
Of course, this refers to the perilous pink pickled radishes one sometimes finds in a shawarma.
Messed up the pedicure I thought was dry when trying on shoes at Nordstroms. #MuslimRage— Fatemeh Fakhraie (@fatemehf) September 17, 2012
What was impressive was the worldwide push to show that Muslims share the same concerns as non-Muslims.
Chicago teachers strike #Muslimrage— Occupied Muslim (@OccupiedMuslim) September 17, 2012
Monsanto & GMO food #Muslimrage— Occupied Muslim (@OccupiedMuslim) September 17, 2012
Trader Joe's Kosher peppermint marshmallows are only sold in December, but Eid is in October #MuslimRage— Hind Makki (@HindMakki) September 17, 2012
And of course, my own:
Some Western Muslims have been ready to respond to an article like this for months. Mainstream media often commissions sensationalistic articles by a handful of Western Muslims and people of Muslim origin professing to speak for the entire Muslim World, Muslim women and Muslim democracy movements by virtue of their ethnic and religious background.
The Newsweek article comes months after Foreign Policy published an article by Mona Eltahawy claiming – without any of the journalistic fairness the publication reserves for non-Muslims – that every single Muslim and Arab man is a misogynist.
Neglecting every women's rights movement that has struggled, long before Eltahawy's birth to educate Arab men and women on gender rights.
Why do Eltahawy and Hirsti Ali have monopolies on Muslims' representation in the West?
In his interview with The Vancouver Observer, the American Islamic Congress' Nasser Weddady explained that a plethora of Canadian and US Muslim voices are silenced by a number of parties.
Many American immigrants – like my own Arab American family – are terrified to speak out at injustices like the mounting US sentiment against people from our backgrounds.
My family tried very hard to keep me home from protests against the US military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Occupy movement – from participating in society like I had hoped, because they, even until today, don't formally understand that we won't be shipped back to where we come from for engaging with mainstream society.
That misunderstanding – that lack of knowledge on the American immigrants' rights is perpetuated by a recent surge in legitimized political Islamophobia – from Herman Cain's bid to make American Muslims take loyalty oaths to Stephen Harper's war against 'Islamicism' in Canada – makes many North American Muslims feel evermore powerless.
Not only are many young North American Muslims discouraged from expressing #MuslimRage openly, but they are discouraged from participation by leaders telling them their religion isn't welcome – that their religion is a lurking threat to democratic freedoms, while Christian Evangelists and other conservatives are engaged in a very public war on reproductive freedoms and marriage rights.
Something that has deeply bothered me about the North American pundit and politician's response to the anti-US embassy violence in the Middle East is to tie the mob violence with the ongoing democracy movements in the Arab World.
There are anti-democracy elements in North America too, as we see from the people trying to silence Muslims, women who need free and fair abortions and gay people who want to be married. That doesn't indicate a wholesale failure of our undying democratic purpose. Or does it?
All I know is that #MuslimRage makes me proud. People from my family's background living in North America – just as they do back in the Muslim World – stand up for their rights, against all odds. In the MENA region, they are standing up to dictators and post-revolutionary dictators. Here in the US and Canada, they are standing up to their parents and politicians.