Will they have gluten-free treats? Is white chocolate structurally racist? Are brown M&M’s offensive? Isn’t Halloween a pagan occasion? Why does that costume look pornographic? These weren’t big questions when I was growing up. They weren’t even questions, actually.
I wasn’t allergic to everything, and neither was America.
My parents were religious, even conservative. But come All Hallow’s Eve, they’d encourage me to go out and get myself some candy, in the same standardized pumpkin-shaped all-purpose tin (which, if you’re Muslim, you should note makes for the worst lota ever).
Probably my parents were just happy to have me out of the house, being as I was the awkward kid who drew maps of imaginary kingdoms on his wall, each with its own backstory. Here’s the catch: I could go solo as Han Solo; we could celebrate being scared, because we weren’t actually scared. The neighborhood was our front yard. We didn’t worry about being perceived foreigners. We didn’t fear our street. We didn’t believe we needed permanent chaperones.
In the years since, we’ve changed as a country. We have dietary sensitivities. We have racial sensitivities. We have cultural sensitivities. We’ve sexualized everything, even a children’s holiday. The effect is not surprising.
I know plenty of Muslim parents who forbid their children from trick-or-treating: it’s Haram-o-ween, they insist (haram being Muslim for not kosher). Others avoid even alluding to the holiday: They might schedule instead an alternative “Muslim fun day,” which is Muslim for now begins your alienation from the world around you, the first step in a long, lonely journey which will end with your having sad, drunken, unprotected sex for the first time with someone you’ve just met at an age when most other guys are well into their dad bods.
72,000 forty-year-old virgins: the true toll of Islamophobia in 21st century America. Whatever our reasons for not celebrating Halloween—the candy’s “processed,” the costumes are “obscene,” the holiday is “fundamentally antithetical to my most dearly held beliefs”—we’re all losing out. As America grows more diverse, we’re going to need more secular holidays to reinforce the only shared values we have left: Terrifying small children; overconsumption; sex; buying things made in China we’ll only use one evening of an entire year and then discarding; designing ever more provocative and offensive products; pumpkins in (and on) everything.
Otherwise this great American project falls apart, and we might as well live in the world of The Man in the High Castle. Not only that, but Halloween should be a goldmine for people of color. It’s the only time of year our toxic reputation is any kind of asset. We don’t even need costumes to be terrifying. And trust me, we are: In the Halloween Parade that is the Republican Party, Ben “the Non-Secular Surgeon” Carson competes for the lead with a Venti Empty-Calorie Donald Trumpkin Spice Latté, but about all they can agree on is how dangerous Muslims are.
So instead of running away from a holiday that’s running away from us, we should run toward it; minorities, Muslims, muggles and Moslems should contribute our own unique genius, transforming it, and returning it to America. Anyhow, we’re going to have to do it on our own. Given how some Muslims respond to, say, cartoons, it’s unlikely any big company wants to try to figure out the Muslim Halloween niche market, which would consist, after all, of plastic versions of graven images.
We’re not going to let that stop us. In true rugged American spirit, we must do the hard work and pull ourselves up from our bootstraps, which, if you’ll watch the safety demonstration video on the small screen in front of you, you’ll see can be found under your thobes. (No, not the wires—don’t pull on those just yet.) Here’s how American Muslims can make Halloween a little bit more frightful.
For the trick-or-treater
The best part of Muslim Halloween is the affordability.
You could go out trick-or-treating in your everyday clothes and be just as scary; if anyone asks, you could tell them you’re practicing taqiyya, which means infiltrating the West from within. Or show up on the evening of November 1st, also sans costume, and tell your surprised neighbors that you are Muslim Standard Time.
Or reuse what you have in your closet. Come up the driveway in a burqa, abaya, gallabiya or shalwar qamis and, when confused homeowners ask, just say, “dressed as? No, I blew a tire and need some help.” Feign outrage as you pretend to put together the prejudice. You should at least get some candy, if not a new tire. (Hint: You’re going to want to have blown your tire for this to work.)
If you’re not Jeb Bush and have some energy, you could dress up as a TSA agent and, while snapping the gloves tight around the wrist, tell the neighbors it’s only a random screening; that if they’ve got nothing to hide, they’ve got nothing to be afraid of. Or drop in on Muslim Fun Day, get every single kid from your mosque to travel the sidewalks with you (hint: promise candy), and act as if they’re all yours. Remember: large numbers of Muslims walking through bucolic scenery is especially reassuring to Hungarians.
Incidentally, if you try to order a TSA uniform and your name is, say, Muhammad, the least of your problems will not be flying again. Actually, many of these ideas could end badly. For you. So think twice. Stop, drop and Tootsie Roll.™ Hooded young men with candy, after all, push armed American males into firing indiscriminately in any direction, which is called freedom. Maybe it’d be safer to start from a different perspective. So let’s take a look at the trick-or-treatee’s side of the equation.
Thank you, come again
When that bell is rung, make sure parents, guardians or kidnappers out for a night on the town have a chance to learn a little about your culture while their kids get the kind of crap candy that’ll ensure Islamophobia for years to come: Pumpkin-filled dates! Pumpkin-tinged hummus! Pumpkin-dusted baklava! Pumpkin-smoked shisha!
But don’t just stop there. Set your doorbell to the muezzin’s call; put a carved pumpkin outside with a crescent-and-star (if there’s a problem tell folks it’s the NASA logo); inform any white Anglo-Saxon cisgender heteronormative upper-middle-class lactose-intolerant gainfully-employed couple that privilege is all the candy their kids need, and slam the door in their faces.
In fact, forget the doorbell, and when you hear someone approaching, preemptively open the door a crack, peek nervously in both directions and whisper, “are you here for the meeting?” Ask if they’ve seen Barack, then tell them to come through the back.
I’m not really sure what happens when they do—but that’s the fun of it.
We don’t have many holidays we can agree on. Sure, Muslims, Christians and Communists can get really excited about Jesus, but that’s not going to bring our Jewish or Buddhist brethren into the big tent is it? Halloween isn’t just equal opportunity, it’s affirmative action; the one time of year when the power dynamic is inverted. When looking like a terrorist means you don’t have to spend a penny, and you can still score major candy.
Speaking of which: when all else fails, American Muslims can just scream in Arabic. Although demographically speaking we mostly don’t speak it, statistically speaking it works every time.