I have been the victim of Islamophobia on multiple occasions, whether that be at airports or at school. The earliest memory I have of it was at the Singapore Airport. I was merely 11. I was stopped at the airport for ‘extra checking’. My bag was completely opened and searched. I was made to sit there for 2 hours. They asked about my origin, my parents, and if I had anything dangerous with me. I was passed through metal detectors multiple times. Why? Simply because they suspected an 11-year-old child of being a terrorist because of my religion. I felt scared and alone. I had no inkling of what Islamophobia was. I did not know that people discriminated on the basis of religion, gender, caste, creed, etc. Truth be told, I still haven’t understood why exactly we do so. Why do we paint an entire community on the basis of a few?
There have been several other incidents of this. However, I do not want to delve into them. Instead, I would like to tell another story – one that has inspired me to be better than those who judge and hold prejudice. I was working with an NGO and was deployed for flood relief somewhere in North India. I spent the whole day surveying the damage, what the extent of the damage was, how much food, medicine, and other supplies would be required, etc. All my companions eventually left, and I was alone while packing up. The nearest hotel was 4 hours away and it was midnight. I looked around at the empty, destroyed road and felt hungry and exhausted. I was slowly walking back to my car when a voice called out. It was an elderly man huddled in a shawl. He sat on a cot gesturing for me to come closer. I went to him, and he asked me to sit. This man was a flood victim. He had lost his small house and coconut cart. All he had left was a kerosene stove which he had salvaged. He asked me to share supper with him since I looked tired, and my hotel was far away. I politely declined since I did not want to take what little this man had. He continued to insist until finally, I told him that he had very little as is. He looked me in the eye and said, “I may have little, but I will always have enough to share with another person”. I sat down beside him, and he poured me a small cup of tea he had brewed and gave me half of the only food he had – two pieces of flatbread were all he had. It was dry and plain. The tea wasn’t great either. However, that was the best meal I ever had the pleasure of enjoying. We finished our meal in silence and departed. I did not have the fortune to meet him once again. This man had seen another person, did not know his name, religion, caste, etc., yet he showed more humanity than most. He did not care what I was or who I was. All that he saw was another human.
That is how I believe we should see each other. See the other person as a human before anything else. Be like the random elderly gentleman I shared a single meal with. Do so because that is what makes us human beings. Even though our encounter was brief, I was profoundly impacted. Ironically, what makes us the most human is what most of us lack.
We hope that you could take away from this story that Islamophobia is a form of prejudice against Islam and regardless of religion, we are all humans at the end of the day. We must all be treated the same and perhaps the only antidote to this discrimination is humanity.
Thank you for taking the time to read through this inspiring story of a student who expressed their personal experiences of encountering Islamophobia and their reflections on those incidences. Stay tuned to this page for more enlightening stories!