I was on Facebook this week when an organization that I follow, UniteCloud, posted an invitation from the Islamic Center of St. Cloud. The invitation was inviting St. Cloud community members to come and share in a Ramadan celebration. It was also a chance for the Muslim community to share with us. There is a great deal of fear and hate of Muslims in St. Cloud. Islamophobia is a large part of, not only our national sphere, but also the community in which I live.
I have a number of Muslim friends within my community. Attending college at St. Cloud Technical College and St. Cloud State University has broadened my circle of friends in great ways. I often talk about giving my friends my love and support through a large number of tough times in our lives. I decided that I should really do something more. I can talk about support, but was I REALLY supporting them? Was I standing with them in more than a literal sense?
I decided that I needed to go to this celebration.
I needed to show them that I am willing to stand in their spaces and be a supporter.
I knew what kinds of things would be okay to wear, and what wouldn’t be. I found a flowing skirt and shirt, which actually hold a lot of meaning for me because I wear them during my own religious rituals. The skirt was a little short, so I put on some leggings under it. The shirt was also a little more revealing than I would have liked (it’s quite see-through) so I wore a long sleeved t-shirt under that. I knew that I would be warm, but I also knew that I couldn’t expect to show up at an event wearing my normal attire either. I found a scarf to bring with me, and I hoped that someone would be able to help me fashion it like a hijab.
I will admit that I was a little nervous. Not for the people that would be at the event, but for those that might have read about the event in the same way as me…but maybe had different plans. We live in a pretty scary world right now, and I wasn’t really sure about what could happen. I was worried about extremists….but not the extremists that everyone sees on news media. I was worried about the ones born and bred in our own communities.
When I read stories about Muslim shop owners, in my community, showing up at their business with pigs intestines wrapped around the door I am horrified. The idea that someone feels comfortable showing such hate to another person is disheartening.
As a cisgender, white, American, I have a lot of privileges that I am able to experience. I do not experience the things that Muslim members of my community experience. Taking a deep look in those privileges really reminds me to be more compassionate to those people around me who experience these types of discrimination.
As a Women’s Studies major, I look at privilege often. I am reminded of the Peggy McIntosh article “Invisible Knapsack“. We really are not taught about oppression in a way that shows us our everyday privileges.
We must unpack those privileges ourselves,
to find ways to create a better community for those around us!
Watch later for Part Two of my Ramadan experience; as I uncover some of the joys of Ramadan and my community.