There you have it.

When I was born they said the call to prayer in my right ear. I had no choice in the matter. When I would argue with my mom and tell her being muslim was a choice she would disagree. I would say ‘so if they centrifuged my blood the muslim part would rise to the top’ and she would say yes. That, to me, was it. I was a muslim. Whatever I did with that was up to me. But the foundation of it was planted within 24 hours of my birth.

Now, there are probably loads of much more devout muslims who would disagree with my statement that I am a muslim.  I don’t pray or fast and I’ve never been to Mecca (and quite honestly, don’t plan on it considering my fundamental hate for Saudi Arabia and its regime.) But, none of that makes me not a muslim. It might not make a very good muslim (as in an adherent to the dogma on which it is based) but I know that and will live and die with the consequences.

I’ve not ever had to proclaim my faith to the public. I think, for the most part, people kind of know I am probably not Christian. I mean, I look different from Christians – although Niki Haley and Bobby Jindal also look different. And I have a decidedly non Christian name (those other two do not.) Growing up, every Jewish person I knew had a grandmother named Mirriam.

These days, though, I feel the need to proclaim my Islamic heritage. I feel that I need to state I am a muslim because the world has driven me to it. It has driven me to uncovering what should otherwise be a quiet and very personal part of my being. Why does it matter to you what I believe in my heart? Because some people claim it for their terror? Because some people have misappropriated it for their evil? This means I have to stand up and tell you I am what they claim to be but I am not like them? Is this not self-evident?

I don’t believe all white people are members of the KKK or white power or well, anything like that. I don’t think all black people are criminals and I don’t think Jews run all the banks through some sort of Jewish conspiracy. To think that would be tin-foil hat wearing ridiculous, right? Right?

Look, I don’t know what terrorists believe in their heart of hearts. Brainwashing can do incredible things to people, and there is no better method of controlling human beings than through religion. There is no doubt that countries run by religion are not free. By their nature they can’t be because religion does not allow for human freedom. I mean, for most people, it’s not even a thing you choose, it is chosen for you before you even know this is a thing that might have a choice involved in it. Religion is limiting, it is constraining. It tells you what you can and cannot do. And not in broad strokes like you shouldn’t kill or bang your friend’s wife. It controls every aspect of your daily life. And for those of you so concerned about Sharia law, maybe you need to check your own religious texts for the laws contained therein. They are there, you just choose to ignore them. And they aren’t very pleasant.

But, this isn’t about whether your religion sucks more or less than mine. Mine is mine and yours is yours and probably you can come up with reasons why yours sucks less and I can point out 10,00 reasons why mine does. It’s all just confirmation bias and we all are guilty of it (but we are all also not guilty of something.) No, this post is about proclaiming to you, because it seems I have to, that muslims are actually normal people. We do things like, I don’t know, get medals in fencing. Sometimes we win prizes for science.  The rest of us have regular jobs and go to work and come home. You might have seen us in line at the grocery and didn’t even know we were muslim. We are everywhere and we do lots of things.

Mostly, we aren’t terrorists. I mean, probably like 98% of us aren’t terrorists. Do you know who terrorists are killing? Muslims. They are not coming after your great-aunt in Peoria. Their first goal is to make all muslims realize that everyone else who isn’t a muslim is the enemy and if you don’t ascribe to that doctrine, they, the extremists, might kill you. They are against freedom of any sort, even the most minute forms of it (there was a Fatwa issued against Nawrooz, which is Persian New Year and celebrated in Afghanistan.) But you know what they have done?  They’ve made sure that all of us ‘cultural muslims’ make it well known that we are, in fact, muslim. I’ve never felt more kinship with my people. I’ve never felt more of a need to defend myself, my kids, my family. I stand in solidarity with everyone who claims this faith as their own.  I don’t mean extremists or those who would seek to have us all bow down to their order. To those of you who live it in your hearts, or at Eid, or through daily prayers you do at home, or the early morning meal before the sun comes up during Ramadan, I stand with all of you. I am one of you.

Why would you make an entire religion of over 1 billion people your enemy?

Do you even know anything about Islam?

If you say that Christians are infidels it is clear you don’t know Islam.

If you say Jews are infidels you don’t know Islam.

(Now, if you say Hindus are infidels, well, I’ll give you that. It’s a shame, really, but that’s actually what it says. Idol worship is forbidden and having all those gods doesn’t sit well with the idea of monotheism.)

I have an offer for you. If you’ve never met a muslim except those who blow shit up, come over to my house. Come and meet me. Meet my mom and dad and my aunts and uncles and the rest of us who fled Afghanistan in search of some peace. Come see what we eat and wear and how we talk. Come hang out a bit and then tell me if you think all muslims are a threat to your great-Aunt in Peoria. Once we cease to be nothing more than your recurrent image on Fox News I think you’ll have a better understanding. We’re here. Come say hi.