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Attack on Muslims reverberates in Americans' fears [CAIR-Florida's Majda Rahmanovic | Orlando Sentinel]

By Majda Rahmanovic,, For Orlando Sentinel (*Picture Wikimedia Commons), On 21 March 2019, Read Original
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It was like a video game. Except the bullets and the victims’ blood were real. It was set to music: an all-too-familiar white supremacist theme song. Not familiar to all, but particularly familiar to the Bosnian Muslims that fled Europe and sought refuge in the United States to get away from hatred and violence. Now it feels like the hatred and violence has followed us to our new homes.

The terrorist set his murderous rampage to the same music that was played by the Bosnian Serb nationalists/Chetniks, when they carried out a genocide (though sometimes referred to as “ethnic cleansing”) in my home country of Bosnia. The same music accompanied our former Christian neighbors, teachers, and colleagues as they turned on our homes and communities and, for the better part of five years, tortured, raped, murdered, and tried their damnedest to exterminate us, because we were Muslims. That music played as they ran the numerous concentration and rape camps. That music rang in the ears of the hundreds of men who were herded into a soccer stadium and summarily executed because they were Muslims. My family survived and escaped. That’s why we are here now. Home sweet home.

We started over as Americans. We work, we pay taxes, we contribute. We thought we had left this horror behind us. But it followed us across the globe. Gradually, the anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant rhetoric gained prominence and became normalized. The same rhetoric is always used to dehumanize the “other” — to strip them of their humanity, and render them into objects. Dehumanized, objects — not mothers, fathers, and children. Objects you can destroy, because they have no humanity, and their lives do not matter

By invoking the president of the United States as his inspiration for his vile cowardly act, the New Zealand terrorist brought the jingoistic and Islamophobic rhetoric into reality, to the soundtrack of a genocide a mere 25 years old, whose victims are still being exhumed, and whose war criminals are still on trial, and it’s scary. The rhetoric used by the terrorist and his ilk, as well as the rhetoric he drew upon from world leaders like President Trump, is physically nauseating.

Words like “ethnic cleansing” and places like Bosnia – or New Zealand for that matter – seem far away, but in today’s connected world, the hate quickly spills over in Friday worship. As an American Muslim woman wearing a headscarf, I am used to getting questioning looks, and sometimes more. But I never had this lump in my stomach that I have now that the terrorists’ soundtrack runs in my head. People still listen to that? People still glorify the war criminals, murderers, and rapists? It still accompanies their atrocities, their attacks on helpless people, their acts of cowardice? I look over my shoulder as I carry my toddler into the mosque. I catch myself checking the rear-view mirror more often than I normally would.

The outpouring of support from the non-Muslim community has been wonderful. We are pulling together as a community, and I am forever grateful for the friends and elected officials who are standing by us in this time of grief and disbelief. We will get over this. And we will find our own soundtracks.

A Muslim man, right, and another local perform a traditional Maori 'hongi' greeting, a touching of noses, after Muslims prayed in front of the Al Noor mosque following a mass hakMajda Rahmanovic

* The author is the community planning and development director for CAIR-Florida.

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