To the Young Men

To the Young Men: Keep Your Heads Held up High

By Hina Khan-Mukhtar
About a week or so ago, I was positioned in between my son and his friend as we walked to a mosque on a dark street when a passerby suddenly and aggressively yelled something out-loud at us. I didn’t catch what he said, but he was obviously mentally ill and was trying to provoke a reaction from us. Neither of the young men looked left or right; neither of them acknowledged him; instead, with shoulders back and spines straight, they just continued striding forward at a steady pace, and — although I was a little rattled — I decided to follow their lead.
My son later told me that he was walking with this same friend another day (they were both wearing thobes — the long Middle Eastern gowns worn by both men and women — and kufis/skullcaps) when a driver passed by them and they heard someone yell out the car window, “F*** ISIS!”
Remembering him as a little boy who wouldn’t have let anyone even look at him the wrong way, my heart skipped a beat, and I asked nervously, “What did you do?”
“Nothing. We both just looked at each other and started laughing.”
Keep your heads held up high, my sons. There’s a part of me that wants to beg you not to go out in religious or ethnic garb anymore, but then I realize that I don’t have that particular luxury for myself, and maybe — just maybe — you’re learning some empathy towards your Muslim sisters through this painful process of shedding the privilege of anonymity.
I hope I can learn from your calm and from your restraint and that you always maintain those two traits, insha’Allah (except for when “action” is truly called for of course). I hope you can always tell the difference between brashness and bravery, between cowardice and caution. I pray you are never tested beyond your limits. I pray you know how and when “to be a man”. I pray you — and those with you — are always safe. Aameen.