Losing my Voice
The other day, someone called my mother tongue, a “terrorist language.” My heart sank. Since when did the language of poetry become a hateful dialect?
I recently published a couple of pieces in an anthology, which includes writings and images by a diverse group of Muslim women writers, poets and artists. Our pieces are political and emotional. They are as beautifully complex as each and every single one of us. These are pieces that came from our hearts. They speak of injustices and imposed wars; not only the war of bombs and missiles, but also wars of sexism, racism, poverty, homophobia…
I think of our anthology, and I smile because I see courageous women. I think of women whose words will settle into the hearts of others who also long for justice and peace. I think of the ways in which our words and images might reach others.
I feel honored to be part of this group of women; and yet, I feel like a coward.
I feel like a coward because lately I get caught up in all the hype around being a person of Arab/Iranian Muslim decent living in the post-911 world of hatred and fear towards my people.
I feel like a coward because some mornings I choose not to read Farsi books on the subway.
I feel like a coward because sometimes I stutter when I tell people where I was born.
I feel like a coward because at times I censor my own words.
I feel like a coward because some days I feel helpless.
I feel like a coward because there are times when I choose silence.Let me not pray to be sheltered from dangers,
But to be fearless in meeting them.
Let me not beg for the stilling of my pain,
But for the heart to conquer it.
Let me not look for allies in life's battlefield,
But to my own strength.
Let me not crave in anxious fear to be saved,
But hope for the patience to win my freedom.
Grant me that I may not be a coward,
Feeling your mercy in my success alone.
But let me find the grasp
Of your hand in my failure.
(words of Rabindranath Tagore)