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The Daily Tar Heel

Column: Finding my confidence as a Muslim

Ramishah Maruf

Jummah is the holiest day of the week for Muslims, falling on a Friday. In the afternoon every week, Muslims gather in mosques and prayer rooms around the globe for their Salatul-Jumu'ah, a congregational prayer.

It was during this holy time 49 Muslims in New Zealand were gunned down by a white supremacist.

I know what it was like in those two mosques in the seconds before those innocent people died, because I’m praying during those Friday afternoons, too, for as long as I can remember. We stand in rows, sisters among sisters, brothers among brothers, worshipping God under our Imam’s leadership. The silence is deafening, with the exception of small children playing in the back. It’s a moment of unity among us, yet we’re each speaking individually to God — often time, it’s during Jummah I feel the closest connection to Him. 

It’s what makes this terrorist attack even more cynical. To disrupt what is often the most peaceful moment in a Muslim’s week with gunshots and blood and terror. 

Ask any Muslim and they will tell you, this terrorist attack was not surprising. I knew it was coming when Trump said “I think Islam hates us” and enacted a Muslim ban. And when, after a column I wrote revealed my Muslim faith, I started to receive threatening emails. After the Charleston church and Tree of Life Congregation shootings, I kept on wondering which mosque would be shot up next. 

Nothing normalized Islamophobia more than friends and “allies” who stayed silent through it all, standing up for Muslims only when it was convenient for their political campaigns or social media. 

In the aftermath of the attack, I’ve reflected on what it truly means to be a Muslim. I’ve always struggled with it. I’ve never been secure enough in my faith to wear the hijab, or even to pray five times a day. But as “assimilated” as I perceive myself to be, this massacre made me acutely aware that I will continue to be the other, perpetuated by my country’s own Islamophobic president and his followers.

But what I know is that I want to be as good of a Muslim as those 49 who died while worshipping. So I attended Jummah at my local mosque, knowing that at the back of my mind, a white supremacist could easily make sure it was my last.

Before we pray, the Imam preaches a khutbah, a sermon. Today’s was about New Zealand. And in a cracked voice, the Imam declared, “The effects of a confident Muslim cannot be measured.”

To be Muslim is to be brave in your identity. To let nothing deter you from worshipping God, not white supremacists with guns, not those in power who let this violence happen. I’m proud of my faith and I’m proud of my people and I will always continue to write about it. That’s my confidence. 

During the call for prayer, the evocative, lyrical Arabic pronouncement echoing through the prayer room, I cried for my brothers and sisters suffering around the world. I cried for the Muslims in Chinese internment camps and the Muslims dying in Palestine. I cried for the Muslims in Afghanistan, I cried for the Muslims starving in Yemen, I cried for the Muslims here. I cried for the Muslims in New Zealand.

And then, on that Friday afternoon, I prayed for us, just as those in New Zealand had when they died.

I prayed and I prayed and I prayed.

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