By Salman Dia-Eddine
(Reposted with permission from Islamophobia.io)
My family and I, having lived all across North America, have been regular targets of Islamophobic hatred, include acts of physical vandalism against our property.
But this hasn't deterred us from being visibly-Muslim members of society trying to live in peace without bothering anyone.
Often we've found that much of the hate is driven by misinformed stereotypes, fueled by mass media or ignorant commentary on social media.
But it takes just one or two sincere and simple interactions for many of our non-Muslim neighbors to realize the stereotypes are grossly misleading or outright false.
For example, once upon a time a few years after 9/11, my family and I were on a road-trip traveling from Canada, down the US East Coast, to Florida and back.
Somewhere in Virginia, we stopped in a plaza in a small town, in an empty parking lot near the back of a Pizza Hut.
It was time to pray the afternoon prayer and of course everyone was also hungry.
I went inside to place the order for a few pizzas for about eight people.
I went back out to the van and I prayed with my dad, my two brothers, and my grandpa on a clean white cotton sheet on the ground next to the van while my mom and sisters prayed inside the vehicle.
After our prayers, we raised our hands and asked God for a safe journey.
I went back inside the restaurant to pick-up the pizzas and pay for the order, and the female cashier - who was maybe 25 or so - was noticeably blushing and trying to hide a smile.
I asked her what made her smile so, and she composed herself for a moment and then pointed to one of the back windows and said "I saw what you guys were doing out there (praying) and I think its the most beautiful thing I have ever seen in my whole life."
I was taken aback and slightly flattered, so I told her exactly who we were (Muslims) and what we were doing and why. I believe it may have been the first time she actually saw a Muslim praying, by herself.
Not on TV or in a movie, or some magazine. The interaction was such a small one, at a random moment in time, in a random corner of the country.
I never saw her again, nor that town.
But I walked away with my pizza feeling that such a small interaction would have undoubtedly left an impression on her that Muslims just don't fit the stereotype that the media always likes to throw around, and thus hopefully inoculating her against the hatred that has infected a small band of her fellow countrymen.