I'm sick and tired of people generalizing without educating themselves. I'm sick and tired of people blindly giving in to fear-mongering and stereotyping.
I spend every day with Muslims. I am not worried about my safety. I don't fear that one of them will blow themselves up in my classroom.
The biggest issue I have with my students is tardiness. Tardiness. Not terrorism. Not evil plotting. Not suicide vests. Not ISIS. Tardiness.
The Muslims I teach are looking to get away from war, fighting and deprivation. The Muslims I teach are wide-eyed, curious and pro-American (although some days I'm not sure why any of us would be pro-American). The Muslims I teach are worried about grades, clothes and girls. The Muslims I teach play ping pong with my kids. The Muslims I teach show me pictures of the families they so desperately miss back home. The Muslims I teach are kids that are hopeful for a better future but realistic based on their life experiences.
My own children have faced many crises is their lives: More than once, their iPhones have run out of battery while out and about. Many times their friends couldn't join them at the movie theater or on the putt putt course. And on more than one occasion their soccer team lost. My poor children.
The kids I teach have seen ISIS roll down their streets. The kids I teach have never not known war. The kids I teach don't know if they'll ever see their families again. The kids I teach have seen weapons, death, destruction, bombs, war, fear and dying EVERY DAY of their lives. EVERY.DAY.
One day, my student planned to give a speech on cancer survivorship. He was hesitant to give the speech in my presence. He didn't want to hurt my feelings. He didn't want to make me sad. He was truly concerned about me as a cancer survivor. He put me before himself. That cruel, hateful, destructive Muslim didn't want to hurt my feelings. That evil terrorist.
In a perfect world, I would stand on my soapbox and scream, holler and yell until everyone learned to love, care and help. In a perfect world, everyone would have an Aziz, a Yousef, an Ashraf or an Erfan in their lives.
In the meantime, I will lead by example. I will show my children what love, tolerance and faith in humanity looks like. I will play ping pong, laugh and share family stories. I will not assume that the actions of a few represent the intentions of many. I will be open-minded, wide-eyed and curious. I will be grateful for the life I have experienced as an American. I will thank the powers that be that I was born here, now, and on this side of the pond.
With increased exposure, maybe one day more people's biggest fear with Muslims will be similar to mine: tardiness (not terrorism).