12 Years Later…

I moved recently and I live between two elementary schools. No matter which direction I choose, I will run into parents walking their tots to school in the morning. Well, hopefully, not literally run into them. I just cleaned my chrome rims.

Anyway, some children are escorted by moms, others by dads, and still others by older siblings. A lot of the moms are Muslim. Technically, I suppose the dads are, too, but they’re harder to pick out.

Anyway, this week, I’ve noticed one particular mom and her little girl. The mom is always wearing shalwar kameez with a dupatta around her head like a hijab. Did that sentence make any sense? If not, mom looks like this (but not quite as sassy):

Salwar Image from muslimmfashion.com
Shalwar kameez with a dupatta. Don’t ask me why I know this.
Image from muslimmfashion.com

The little girl looks like any other little girl in America. She wears a little girl hoodie with a little girl skirt, little girl tights and little girl shoes. And she’s always tightly clasping her mom’s hand.

Upon seeing this pair the first time, a bunch of thoughts floated through my head.

I remembered holding my own mother’s hand on the way to elementary school in my little girl shoes and tights, and it made me smile.

I was jealous of mom’s attire, since I always thought shalwar kameez look very comfortable. I am not even close to south or central Asian, so I think it might be disrespectful for me and my pasty white skin to just up and wear their clothes. I always try to be respectful of other cultures. Aside from the dupatta, it does look insanely comfortable though.

I wondered which country in particular mom was from. I wondered if she was even from a country other than this one; it was rude of me to assume that since she was originally foreign just because of her clothes.

I wondered why mom was dressed in traditional attire and daughter wasn’t. Was mom planning to transfer her cultural heritage to her daughter? Did she want her to choose for herself? I wondered if the mom has a choice in her own attire or if it’s expected of her.

I wondered what life is like for that Muslim mom. I wondered if, when she decided to wear the bright pink shalwar kameez this morning, did she even realize that it was the 12th anniversary of the September 11th attacks?

I was ashamed that I put those two things together. I’m not a fan of generalizations. I don’t like assumptions. I try not to make them myself, but I put September 11 and bright pink shalwar kameez together in my head. At that moment, I was part of the problem.

Terrorists killed Americans. All Muslims are terrorists. All Muslims are evil and want to destroy the American way of life. Or some other such sweeping generalization that’s entirely bunk. With that kind of flawed syllogistic thinking, after a dozen years, I’d imagine that it’s not much more comfy cozy to be a Muslim in this country than it was then.

I don’t blame that mom in her pink shalwar kameez for the September attacks any more than I blame her daughter who wasn’t even alive yet.

I’m irreligious. I don’t worship any gods, but I respect your right to do so, and if that involves a hijab, so be it. It’s not our money or military prowess, it’s the rich diversity of its people that makes America great. In a post 9/11 world, Muslim mom in her bright pink shalwar kameez freely walking down the street hand in hand with her as of yet, untraditional daughter is what will save us from ourselves.

In memory of all of the victims of terrorist attacks everywhere. Stop the stereotypes. Let’s stop killing each other over our differences.