An Open Letter to You!
Runxbabyxrun sent in one of the most heart-warming and incredible letters we've ever received. We hope you appreciate it as much as we do! —Sparkitors
Every single one of you, every Sparkler and every Mankler, is amazing, and though I do not know any of you, you all have my gratitude and my respect.
Perhaps I should explain this sudden onslaught of emotion and the situation that provoked it. The best way to do that is to share some of my own story. I am 16 years old, my parents are Palestinian immigrants, and I was born in America. Over the years, I have come to find that America, despite the ignorance of some, the anger of few, and the disinterest of many, is everything that the poets of the Revolution promised it would be. I've always felt that I could be amazing here. It was a gift to have the advancements of American society and the perseverance and determination of my Palestinian heritage; it was the best of both worlds. Even after 9/11, I never felt, as a faithful Muslim and a Palestinian, that I was hated. I felt welcome in this country. I felt at home.
All that changed with the controversy over the mosque being built near the site of the World Trade Center. Let me be clear: it is your view if you are for it, it is your view if you are against it, and it has never been my place to judge. But others don't feel the same way. Everyone I thought I knew—classmates I had liked, teachers I had admired—everyone began to question me: how could I support such a horrible thing and still say I was American? How could I believe in this "religion of terror"? I was not Sarah anymore—I was Muslim. The badge I had worn with pride became a yellow mark on my coat for all to see. The people who had liked and respected me began to ignore me. I was told to go home. Soon, I wondered where home was.
The computer should've been the last place I looked for solace. But I would not go to my parents, for they had experienced far worse; who knows how much hardship and ignorance they had faced in their time? I refused to disappoint them, so I turned to the internet, hoping that among the millions in the United States there was someone who cared.
The first websites I had visited were fruitless efforts. The comments were angry and raging. I read curse words and venom on the screen. I was lonely, dejected, and disappointed. I began to wonder, why am I even here? Do people really hate my religion, and by extension, me, that much? Why did my parents come to a place where we were not wanted? Would we not be infinitely better off in a third world country than among people who refused to see the human being behind my religion?
I called my best friends, the only people still willing to speak to me, but reached voicemail. I left them my dejected messages and went on the computer once more, attempting to distract myself from the conflict and hatred swirling around me. If I could forget just for a little bit, and read something that distracted me from the idea of school tomorrow, then it would be a success.
So I went on SparkLife and clicked the Open Thread, where a conversation about Ramadan and the Masjid just happened to be occurring. That my religion was spoken of with such warmth and respect, even by those who had no direct ties to it, made me happier than I could ever say. In the unknown names of my fellow Sparklers, I found solace. I found kindness. I found compassion. That these young people, even protected by their computer screens, would still be generous and civil to every single follower of Islam, overwhelmed me. It was such a feeling of happiness to know that somewhere out there, I was not being judged for having a scarf over my hair or the name "Allah" on my lips. That somewhere, people did not hate me for having beliefs that were different than theirs. I went to school the next day with renewed faith in the American people, the kind ones, wherever you all may be.
Which is why I thank all the Sparkitors, every Sparkler who has ever posted a comment, and even those who just read, for being so absolutely wonderful. Even though you may not know me, you have restored my faith in the goodness of people. Whether the Masjid goes up or not, I will always remember how virtual strangers respected me when people I had known for years didn't. I will never forget that.
I thank every single one of you from the bottom of my heart. I wish that every single human could feel the same compassion as I have...maybe if they did, maybe there would be no terrorism, and no Muslim, Christian, Western, Arab, Jewish Hindu terrorists at all.
We're proud to be part of such a compassionate and open-minded community! Keep bein' awesome, Sparklers—you never know when you might change someone's life!
Related post: Tolerance Is In