A few weeks ago, you shared this image on Instagram:
The Arabic should’ve said “Anti jamīlah,” but actually read, “Anti himār”—you’re a donkey. Enthusiastically, you’d shared it with a brief, “Habibi” (beloved). This became wildly popular, for unintended reasons.
It was widely derided as a “social media fail,” or what we used to know (before the internet disrupted our lives and sense of social decorum) as “an innocent mistake.” Yours was. Mine wasn’t.
I shared the image on Twitter, joining a chorus of delighted, sarcastic, none-too-friendly Muslims, Arabs, and associated fifth columnists, who thought this the funniest thing in the world. Actually we were, or at least I was, venting my frustration at the kinds of “expertise” people use to justify heinous and unfriendly comments towards Arabs and Muslims, which usually end with them bombing someone like me.
But, of course, you didn’t do that, and I apologize for being part of such a mean gesture. In fact I had a phone conversation with a prominent American imam last night—in Islam, we say subhanallah at such coincidences—and he mentioned in passing how offended many white American Muslims were by this very kind of gesture. On reflection, I can see why. I don’t find racial insensitivity humorous directed at me.
The least I can do is not support it. And the least I can do is the least I can do.
There are not many white Muslim converts in America, proportionally speaking, and I’m sure sometimes they feel overrun by the preponderance of brown. (Get used to it, world. Rabbits breed like us.) And sometimes humor does go too far. But the real reason I’m writing, Lindsay, isn’t because of that—although I am sorry—or even Mean Girls, one of the best movies ever.
Or even that I had the biggest crush on you because of that movie.
(A 24-year-old Pakistani nerd is like a 13-year-old lovelorn white child. It’s not racism, it’s anthropology.)
I’m apologizing because I saw this morning, and now returning back to the coincidence, a story on Fox News: “Lindsay Lohan converts to Islam?” The best way I can describe Fox News is that it is the white Christian version of the propagandistic hate, from language to technique, I see coming from the worst corners of the Muslim world. They’re the Mean Girls of our global high school. They deserve one another.
But they’re not the adults in the room. So what if you carried a Qur’an? (Actually, I’m happy, but that’s just the small proselyte I have inside of me—think of him as a genie inside a lamp. Plus, that’s not racist, or anthropological. It’s xenobiological.) In hard times of my life, the Qur’an has always been there for me, a source of support and comfort, and Lord knows we all need our inspiration and sustenance.
Your journey is your own. It’s a terrible thing to have to have one’s life scrutinized, pored over, mocked, insulted, and constantly found wanting, when all you did in the first place was make some movies that people liked, and some brown people, say several hundred million, wished you’d convert to Islam, not knowing that they still wouldn’t have a chance. (Who is this Habibi, by the way?)
But it’s even worse that I took any part in it. So, for what it’s worth, on the extremely unlikely chance you’ll read this, I’m sorry. May you and all those who are sincerely seeking find happiness, contentment and success in this world, and may they be able to live out serenity and peace in the next, whether that be in the sequel a certain movie deserved, or the chance to live in Middle Earth.