My Neighbor

6:32 AM

To my Muslim Neighbor,

A few months back, my parents were walking their dog in the neighborhood we share with you. They noticed your house had been vandalised. You informed them that this was not the only attack that you had received since living here. You told them about how your lawn was set on fire and the anxiety it has caused you and your family.

As an adult who spent the majority of my childhood in your neighbourhood, I want to apologize. 

15 years ago, my 4th grade teacher took us on a field trip to the Islamic School of Seattle. We spent the day eating, playing and talking with a classroom of students our age. I remember the beginning of the day when we first met. It was a day that started out with shy stares and ended with playful laughter. I ran home from school, eager to tell my mom about these new friends I had made. My class greatly anticipated when they would come visit us at our school so that we could show them our playground and where we ate our lunches. My classmates and I walked away from that day knowing that we were not as different as we seemed at first.

It is this cultural immersion that I was taught at 9, that leads my convicted heart to write this today. Following the statement from a presidential candidate a few weeks ago, I sat back and I watched as social media exploded with words born out of hatred and concern. I did not feel that my voice was necessary, therefore I did not write. This was until I remembered my experience in elementary school. This was until I remembered that you, are my neighbor.

Without my fellow peers knowing it, my 4th grade teacher was preparing us for a day where our country would need us to speak. I believe that the people in my generation are responsible for tearing down any wall that is built out of fear and hatred. The real threat to our society is not terrorism, it is the division born out of the threat of terrorism. The walls are rising, therefore I will start speaking.

In 2002, I was told stories from my new muslim friends about the discrimination they were forced to experience after the attacks on 9/11. I apologize that, 15 years later, you must experience that same discrimination. I apologize that we still live in a world where we backpedal in our acceptance of one another.

At the end of the Seattle Times Article was a quote from my 4th grade teacher. It reads, “I hope they learn tolerance”*. My 4th grade teacher taught me tolerance, my mother taught me acceptance, and the God I serve taught me unconditional love. I will continue to pray to my God that he will lead the hearts of every American to stand with you and for you. I hope you will continue to ask your god to do the same. I am writing to let you know that you are not just tolerated, not just accepted, but you are unconditionally loved. I hope the day will come soon where you will rest easy knowing you are safe here.

As a constituent of Washington State, I will let my representatives know the crime and malice that was committed in my neighborhood. They will know that I am not scared of you and have no reason to be scared of you. I will tell them these things so that when any member within our government makes a statement regarding “people like you”, the person who holds my voice will be able to stand up and say, "BUT they are our neighbors."

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