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In the shadow of a beast

In the shadow of a beast

What a label brings to the fray is not just a means to communicate, but also a method of opening relations that was once lost. BMCC undergrad Khalil Majeed introspects what it means to be a “terrorist”. 

It’s derogatory, but it’s important that people are comfortable – even when it’s at the behest of your own ego. I like being labelled a ‘terrorist’. I look the part, there’s no denying it — lightly tanned skin, disastrously unkempt goatee, charcoal hair with a tinge of vague grey immigrants, and hazel brown eyes.

There’s something about being told you resemble a stereotype that’s sort of amusing. Personally, it isn’t a great insult by any breadth of the imagination. There are so many other worse things I could be labelled as. A paedophile, for example. A minister of parliament, would be empirically worse.

I have lived with this epithet for almost 10 years now. For those who have the courage, I encourage them to take a swipe at me. If you think about it, it’s a great way of getting to know people.

You can imagine the jokes that get thrown around. “Raghead”. “Jihadi”. “Osama”. They’re all relatively accurate stereotypes at one point or another, to be honest. In many ways, they represent a phobia that’s gripped the world and burnished the image of Muslims worldwide.

Some argue I should not allow such phobic labels to purvey in a society that has evolved past derogation. But have we really? Sitting at home, roaming the internet, it’s difficult to argue such a thing is true. That being said, there is another side to the coin that we oft forget.

Terrorist! This label, as bigoted and racist as it may seem, has become a reminder of the mistakes the people of my faith have made in the past and the mistakes we’re currently still making as a religion. They are, in many ways, mistakes we need to rectify.

9/11, or if you’re well versed in actual dating schemes, 11/9. But I digress. The day of reckoning, you might call it.

I was 11-years-old then. Sitting innocently in the middle of my father’s bed, half covered by a blanket, intently watching a BBC reporter, blond and stiff, narrating the scene of what would become the defining moment of a war that has cost too many lives.

I remember watching the first tower collapse, in awe of the spectacular eruption of dust and debris roaring down the streets of New York City. People gasped for clean air as the cloud engulfed them. A man leaped to his death. The eyes of the world watched through the lens of the camera.

The pain was tinged in grey concrete and tasted of unadulterated anger. This was to become the battle cry for the masses.

“What just happened?” I asked excitedly, eyes fixated on the rolling images. My dad replied, cheering as he clenched down on the cigarette between his grinning lips, “A plane just hit the World Trade Centre in the United States. A tower has collapsed.”

When the second tower had collapsed my as though a new revolution was afoot. Something great was about to happen. At that age, not knowing better, I joined in the cheer, pumping my fist, mimicking my father’s almost unfettered joy.

In school I expounded the virtues of the planes smashing into the twin towers. The dead were not my concern. In my mind, at that moment, they deserved it. No one corrected me then. There needed to be correcting.

Late Islamic scholar and orator, Sheikh Ahmed Deedat once said that the “biggest enemy of Islam is the ignorant Muslim, whose ignorance leads him to intolerance” and that his actions would destroy the true image of the religion.

My father’s cheer has since come to represent the ignorance and intolerance so much of the world has come to recognise as ‘Islamic’. An oversight by any means, it’s something we’ve come to regret today more than ever. It is also an oversight that we should all be, in no way overtly, be thankful for.

The so-called ‘war on terror’ that followed the catastrophe became the moment when Muslims around the world stood up and took notice. It akin to an epiphany to many: Their religion, one so many profess in peace and solitude, was being used as a tool for political mileage by self-styled Islamic psychopaths.

Yes, it can be argued that the Muslim world’s problems have been historically linked to the collapse of progressive ideologies at the turn of the 20th century. The point here is, it took the lives of 3,000 innocent men, women, and children for us to realise the degradation of our religion at the hands of ‘conservatives’, ‘fundamentalist’, and even ‘fascists’. We’ve come to see, from one act of insanity, the general mistrust that Muslims have for one another and the inherent bigotry within our ethos.

It’s difficult to find humour in so much unnecessary pain. The fact that people who profess a religion that’s been the cornerstone of so many discoveries, has a history of progressive thought, has been essentialised by many to represent a dogmatic faith hell bent of converting every heretic into either a subservient Muslim or a mound in the ground. Now that is funny.

The revolutions and debates are proof of an awakening that needs to continue. If being given a label leads to the growth and progression of the Muslim world, and for the betterment of the world at large, then there’s no shame in admitting it: I am a terrorist.

It’s all a bit of fun for a greater purpose, no?

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