Written by Theresa Corbin
If you were tuned in last week for the Talking in Memphis post, you might be wondering where the video of my talk “An Open Invitation to Understanding Islam and the Muslims” is. It is not ready yet, but will be soon, inshaAllah.
This week I want invite you to my reading nook. It is a special place where I spend most of my days, chillin out, maxin’ … oh, er, sorry. I fell into a Fresh Prince reference. Eh hem. In my reading nook, I recently devoured a very important book called Exploring Prejudice by Amy Guimond.
On July the fourth of this year, I had the honor and pleasure of Skyping (Or maybe it was on Google Hangout. Can’t remember.) with an amazing woman named Amy Guimond. Even though we were miles apart, of different faiths, and she’s a runner (ewWWWwww), we came to realize we have so, so much in common.
We came to know of each other through Amy’s research. She was, at the time, working toward a PhD in Conflict Resolution, specifically exploring the topic: Understanding the Experiences of Caucasian, Female Americans Who Have Converted to Islam in Post-9/11 America. She’s, like, super smart.
I, fitting nicely into her demographic, agreed to share my experience with her. How could I not!? It’s what I do. Today, Amy goes by the title Doctor, and I could not be more proud of her. Nor could I be more touched by her work that exposes the injustices and hardship that people like me face in this society.
As we chatted on that day in July, Amy told me about how she, as a Jewish women, came to this field of study. She said that as a Master’s student she conducted a social experiment where she put on a hijab for one month (and niqab for a hot minute) to experience what life is like for Muslim woman who choose to cover in America.
She suffered, struggled, was bullied and abused (emotionally and sexually) to show the world what it is like to experience prejudice. Her book, Exploring Prejudice, is the detailed account of that experiment. And her YouTube channel, exploringprejudice, chronicles her experiences day by day.
After our first encounter where she told me about her book, I went straight to Amazon.com to purchase it. It came in the mail and then started collecting dust on my bookshelf.
I had fallen into a deep depression after reading the rough draft of her dissertation. In her research, she discusses the steps societies take from hate to genocide and how far along the path the U.S. is in their anti-Muslim hate.
I couldn’t handle it. Every fear I had was realized in her dissertation. And so her book about the hijab experiment collected dust.
I didn’t feel like I could handle looking at the ugliness in the world any more, especially if it was happening to someone I couldn’t protect (in this case, her in the past, and other hijabi women presently).
When it happens to me, I can squash it in my mind vice. When I hear of injustice happening to others, I lose it. And I didn’t feel like I had enough of “it” to spare losing any more. And so the dust collected.
I brought the book with me to coffee shops, intending to read it after I met deadlines. I packed it on trips across country with intentions to pour over the pages in transit. It moved from purse to bag in a seemingly endless cycle of good intentions and despair.
That was until I sat down and had a good talking to myself about not being a cry baby and throwing pity parties. I kicked myself in the pants, decided to stop being pathetic, to keep on trying to build bridges, and to trust in God to take care of the situation.
And I finally read Amy’s book.
I was shocked by how familiar I was with her experiences. I knew her encounters would be similar to mine, but I had no idea that people would say, verbatim, to her what they say/have said to me.
I didn’t realize she would describe in so much detail the frustration and heartache I feel when encountering ignorance. I recognized the language of hate perfect strangers spewed at her. And wondered if these same strangers had copied and pasted their words into messages sent to me.
I felt the same liberation and femininity when wearing hijab for the first time. I made all the same realizations she made as people actually looked her in the eyes as she spoke while wearing hijab.
I am amazed by all that Amy went through and learned just to stand up for women with whom she doesn’t even share a faith. Just to understand life from someone else’s perspective. All people who feel othered, oppressed, or profiled owe a debt of gratitude to this amazing women for exposing social evils that exist to this day in our “post racist” (rolls eyes) society.
Amy says time and time again in her book and on her vlog that she feels like she is just preaching to the choir. I often find myself feeling the same way. I wonder if people who feel hatred toward Muslims will even come to my blog, leaving confirmation bias behind, and take to heart what I say. I wonder if my words will ever reach people who need them the most. Who knows? We can only do our part and leave the rest to God.
But YOU can do something to get the word outside of the choir. Buy Amy’s book, read it, gift it to someone you know who harbours hatred in their hearts. Forward her vlog posts to someone who might be touched by them. If she can be brave enough to stand up for others, we can be brave enough to pass it on.
Amy’s work is the religious version of “Black Like Me”– another MUST read. And like John Howard Griffin’s work, it can have an amazing impact on our culture … if it gets the attention it deserves.
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