I unbolted the door with all the muscle and strength within in my bones while plugging my nose and preparing for the worst.
An agglomeration of week old cheese on the plate and chicken soup residue on the walls are my companions on this daily visit to the microwave.
As I strategically place my Lean Cuisine Alfredo .5 millimeters from what appeared to be rotten asparagus, I frown. Famous people, I think while punching in the number two, have it so easy. I watch my alfredo spin in circles and absorb radiation, then notice my pathetic expression in the reflective film. If I was famous, I wouldn’t have any problems like this. I pinch the end of my nose to see if plastic surgery to become a model was still an option.
The microwave beeps, and I deeply sigh as I remove my piping paper platter. I then mutter my bismillahs, and stab a shrimp with my flimsy, plastic fork. As I force myself to swallow it, I can’t help but notice how bland it tastes. Kind of like my life I mumble, then laugh to myself as I realize how pathetic I seemed.
Growing up in a society where the dream of one day, being illustrious for physical and mental capabilities is pervasive, I can’t help but want that for myself. Everywhere I go, I am greeted with grinning starlets on magazine covers, various inventors, visionaries, and activists accepting prizes for curing diseases I will never be able to pronounce, and religious, political and social leaders lighting a crowd with their mere presence.
I’ve always thought that these people have had it easy, especially models and singers who are met with roaring crowds for simply striking a pose or belting a meaningless lyric that reads a lot like alphabet soup. I’ve always thought that anyone really had the capability to be “famous”, and that a few surgeries and and a “halalification” later, I could probably even be the next Kim Kardashian, except bilingual, brown and Muslim.
But there were one minor roadblock.
As a child, I quickly learned that my parents, originally from Pakistan and India, aren’t fans of sugarcoating things. When I was convinced that I wanted to be the next Hannah Montana at age thirteen, I decided to get a second opinion from my mother. “Duriba, beta, that wouldn’t be a good thing” she firmly stated in a condescending tone, then continued braiding my hair. I never asked again.
And now, I finally understand why.
Following the resignation of notorious boy band One Direction’s only Muslim-Pakistani singer Zayn Malik, fans are watching a beloved singer leave his long time bandmates. His family sees this as a “break.” But fellow Muslims see this as a heroic act that should be extolled: Zayn Malik is leaving his life of sin.
Malik 22, has not been excused from Islamophobia through his years of fame. Although covered in tattoos and an avid smoker, he admits he is not exactly a practicing Muslim, but always aims to fast in Ramadan and never fails to wish his fans for Eid. Still, he is harshly criticized by the Muslim community worldwide for being the less than perfect role model of Islam in the mainstream. Because of a few outward flaws, he is publicly ridiculed and his personal relationship with Allah swt is put in a glass case for the world to condemn and jeer.
Last July, He tweeted, “#FreePalestine” and was met with thousands of hate messages dubbing him a terrorist and “beheader.” Although other celebrities such as Wiz Khalifa and Kevin Garnet posted tweets supporting this same cause, they quickly deleted them due to contract/publicity issues. Malik’s tweet still remains today, with over 300, 000 retweets and 340,000 favorites. In other words, as Malik dealt with Islamophobia on one side, he was also cast aside and ignored by the Muslim community at large.
When questioned about his leave, Malik has another reason. “It is crazy and wild and a bit mad but, at the same time, I’ve never felt more in control in my life…and I feel like I’m doing what’s right – right by myself and right by the boys [bandmates], so I feel good.”
Perhaps this is the reason, but we cannot completely expunge the idea that Malik’s leave was due to something deeper than that. Although many write off Islamophobia, we cannot say that it did not affect his decision.
Always remember that the best in the sight of Allah swt is the one who fears and is conscious of him.
When Muslims are put in the public eye, it becomes easier to judge them. Why are our 22 year old daughters and sons exempt from severe judgement because they are “just young,” but this youth, who may or may not be struggling with his Deen, is made a laughingstock out of not? If a you saw a brother in the masjid with two piercings and sleeves of tattoos reading the Holy Quran, would you snatch it from his hand and demand he leave, or would you agree that to each his own faith?
“Taqwa is not in the length of your beard, or in the layers of cloth you wear,” The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Taqwa is here,” and he pointed to his chest. (Reported by Muslim)
I don’t want to be famous anymore. I don’t want to give a speech at the United Nations Summit with the last name Khan, because I know that although the world might appreciate my captivating words, many of my Muslim sisters and brothers will pay far more attention to an exposed inch of my ankle.
Don’t judge someone because they sin differently than you.