by Femi Owolabi and Prince Oreshade
It is becoming a widespread stigma to the religion of Islam, after the 9/11 attacks in the U.S, how Islamists are being taken for terrorists. On several occasions here in Lagos where I reside temporarily, I have been– unsure if it is a joke or not– pointed to, as a member of the Boko Haram terrorist sect. I wear long bushy beards, and my trousers barely reach my ankles. That is the supposed identity of Muslims unfortunately now seen as that of terrorists. To start with, I am a Christian whose looks and dressing style is only likened to that of a Muslim. It is rather worrying that these people do not mistake me for a Muslim, rather they think I am a terrorist. Most people have a historically orientalist approach full of stereotypes, resulting in hostility towards Islam and Muslims. You are a Muslim, you are a terrorist.
As the twelfth anniversary of 9/11 was recently observed in the U.S, my guest columnist, Nigerian-born and New-York based poet and lawyer, Prince Adewale Oreshade shares his experience about a day that is 9/11 anniversary.
Today is 9/11. This day means different things to different people. For some, it’s a day to further dread Muslims, and tag them terrorists. Well, just before you call that Muslim a terrorist today, read this story I’m about to share.
Couple of minutes ago, I was at the recycling machine down the street. There was a queue, which is very unusual. Before I continue, let me elaborate to my Nigerian friends that might not be able to wrap their heads around the notion of how ordinary people can operate a recycling machine.
Well, this is it. Individuals can recycle glass, cans and plastic water bottles by just walking towards a rectangle standing machine on the side of the road, which will pass for a vending machine in Nigeria. When one puts them in, the machine automatically issues a receipt. The more the bottles, the more money the machine will issue on the receipt.
Hence, people that care about the environment, vis-a-vis the climate change forecasts, recycle their bottles every time. Especially considering the fact that one is rewarded for doing that. Even though it is rewarded with stipends. For example; 69 bottles turns out to be $3.45cents. And one can use these receipts to buy anything at the stores. In my own case, however, I don’t do it for the reward, I do it for the environment. We must give the future unborn children an earth they will thank us for.
Though, this seems like a noble deed, here in New York, I can’t tell what the norm is in other States, it is considered an act done by the homeless folks. Hence, people aren’t encouraged to walk down the street to recycle. They would rather liter their bin or the streets with these bottles, thereby contributing to a very hazardous earth. This environmentally dangerous conclusion by some myopic thinking people hasn’t deterred me from recycling. In other news. Hurricane Humberto is on its way to the US.
Back to my 9/11 story. So, there were a lot of people there this time. As people stood; all were scavengers by the way, a white Muslim brother snuck up to us. As though he wanted to steal from us and didn’t want passers-by to see him. His beards were so full; they covered half of his entire chest.
His white-netty cap sat calmly on his head full of hair. Hair, neatly long, it was well rested below his back dorsum.
He then brought out money from his wallet, and started sharing with a smile so calming, it was like it was drawn on his face. Whilst sharing, he made sure no one was seeing him. Quite shyly though. He tried to stretch the money to me, but as he saw I was looking well fed – no thanks to my big stomach, and I was neatly dressed, he withdrew his hand and walked away. Without his beards, his gait will pass for a conservative hip-hop artiste.
Even though these scavengers didn’t literally thank him, which may be due to shock or due to the no-appreciation culture here in America; their faces lightened up in appreciation. As he walked away, I couldn’t help but think of how many Americans would have seen him today, and abused him in their hearts. Or walked away from him for fear of an imminent attack. I have been a victim of being ‘walked away’ from here in America couple of times because they have reasons to believe that I’m a Muslim. That was during Ramadan though.
As I got the receipt for my recycling efforts, I couldn’t help but give it to a female scavenger standing by me. And yes, she also didn’t thank me. It was great to see a Muslim stand for one of the true ideals of Islam. Giving alms. Especially when it was to those that didn’t even ask. And wouldn’t even thank him. Not that he even stood long enough to be thanked.
This tells me of a beacon of hope that still saliently exists amidst all these terrorist-tagging we face daily.
– Prince Adewale Oreshade is a lawyer and an award winning poet. He is based in New-York, U.S.A