I Want to Mourn for Orlando, but I'm a Muslim, I'll Be Accused of Hypocrisy

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An illustration of Sayed Kashua running away from a yellow monster that's about to swallow him whole.
Illustration. Credit: Amos Biderman

Let him not be a Muslim, anything but a Muslim, please, please.

You don’t even get a second to mourn the victims, you can’t share in the grief, you don’t have a chance to identify. Please, please.

You listen to the news, bite your nails, follow the headlines that run like a loop at the bottom of the television screen. You switch from one news channel to another, check websites. And then comes the breaking-news headline: “FBI examining suspicion of terror act.” And you think: No, they always say that at the beginning; they’ll find out that it wasn’t, because you already know that terror means Muslim, and Muslim is you.

After all, they have to examine whether there’s a connection to terror, just like they examine every possible connection. It’s too early to say. He probably has a Muslim name, it’s probably only because of the name that they’re saying it might be terrorism. And if he really does have a Muslim name, then please, God, make it not be from the Middle East – let it be someone who converted to Islam because he thought it was trendy.

You have a Muslim name, and that’s a problem. And the children? No, they don’t have Muslim names – will that help them? Maybe it will help them. The kids will be all right, you tell yourself, happy for a fraction of a second that you gave them “universal” names that aren’t ethnically or religiously identifiable.

Suspicion of terror. Commentators flood the news channels, recapping the whole history of Islamic terrorism. Some are blunter, but you clutch at the more moderate ones – the ones who say that we have to wait in order to figure out whether he had connections, motives, and not leap straight to conclusions.

Omar, that’s the name, Omar. The security organizations are checking out his connections with Islamic terrorist groups. Maybe it was a hate crime, maybe he’s a psychopath. Please, let someone from the police go on TV and say that it’s someone who is mentally ill with a psychiatric history, and rule out the Islamic terrorism option.

You can’t take even a minute to identify with the victims, and their number keeps rising, as does your feeling of guilt and the feeling of the persecution that awaits you. I very much want to mourn for the victims, but I’ll be accused of hypocrisy: You’re a Muslim, you have a Muslim name. But the kids don’t, and maybe that can help them.

Maybe we’ll go back – in Israel at least I had somewhere to escape to. They’re probably celebrating now in Israel. Because of some murderer, some pathetic guy, who’s given them everything they need to confirm a theory they harbor in their hearts. And you curse this Omar, without knowing anything about him; you just know that you hate him to death, because he’s inflicting calamity and fear on you and on millions like you, and you know that there’s nothing in the world that connects you to this Omar.

And after you can no longer hope that it was a mistake, that he’s not a Muslim, after the authorities concluded what they were waiting to conclude – that it’s Islamic terrorism – you try to think logically: What in the world do I have in common with this Omar? What do I have in common with Afghanistan? I don’t know the language, I’ve never met a single person from there. It’s the Afghans’ problem. But you know that’s a lie. You know very well that all the connection that is needed already exists between you and him, and that you are guilty like all Afghans, like all Muslims, of this despicable murder. You are a murderer – well not you, but go prove it. And the predators leap on you and tell you that you’re made of the same genetic code, which has to be purified.

And then you start to think about the victims, for the first time, and to hope, heart palpitating wildly, that there are Muslims among the victims. Victims is good, Muslim victims means that the murderer didn’t distinguish between religions, between ethnic origins. And you feel so pathetic, waiting for Muslim names among the victims, instead of feeling the pain of their loved ones for a moment, but you’re not given the chance, you don’t belong to this, you’re not part of the mourning – you are the cause.

And you have no connection, you even know very well that, according to sharia law, you are not a Muslim, you don’t even believe, but you know that you are one; no one asks your opinion, no one is interested in your worldview. Maybe we’ll switch religions? Is that an option in the United States? Or is it too late? And to which one, exactly? Forget religion, enough with religions. Is atheism a category here? Does religion even appear on a document of any kind? I don’t care, I really don’t care, what’s important is for the children to be all right, for the children not to feel the dread and the fear that I experience every time a Muslim kills someone.

But it doesn’t help, and you know it doesn’t help, because you’ve read history: You know the assimilators will be the first to feel the blow. And then the nightmares begin, accompanied by declarations of warmongering politicians, who build their careers on nationalism and hatred, from marking the enemies of the people, the nation, the homeland.

Do the neighbors know we’re Muslims? After all, we have nothing to do with them, and that's not by chance. There’s no indication, they will never know, we could be anything, and we have Israeli passports if they start pounding on doors or anything like that. Will they give us the option to leave the country? We don’t have a problem, we are not citizens, we wanted to be but we aren’t, yet. We’ll leave, if only we’re given that option.

And how exactly will the measures being promised by the politicians be implemented. Will neighbors point at neighbors? Will teachers turn in their pupils? For sure, my kids’ teachers don’t know they’re Muslims, or do they? They must know. But this is unnecessary paranoia, you try to persuade yourself, nothing will happen, humanity is strong. No one will persecute us, no one will drag people from their homes because of religion, that’s unimaginable.

And if there’s another murder, and again they say it’s terrorism, and again they want to link all Muslims to it? Maybe then we’ll leave? But where to? There’s no place to escape to. And people here are so nice, and the children have it so good, better than ever before. Their names are universal, they’ll be okay, you tell yourself. Everything will be all right.

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