I’m a Muslim. In America. That’s pretty tough these days. Not many people are as disliked as we are. Possibly Justin Bieber, but that’s really it.
I argue that we’re deeply misunderstood because my religion is, in actuality, a thing of beauty. The problem is not the religion; it’s the people. And to be fair, more than 1.6 billion of us are just fine. It’s the classic case of a few very rotten apples. We are not the first great product to be ruined by poor PR. We need lessons from the great publicists. Or the Mormons.
A few years ago I heard radio ads that Mormons used to let us know that they are both regular and extraordinary people in our community.
My first reaction was “Brilliant.”
My second was “Why didn’t we think of that?”
My third was to roll my eyes. Because, really, who hates Mormons?
It was like listening to a supermodel complaining about her fat thighs.
I’ll tell you who has managed to turn things around for themselves — the gay community. Not to disregard all the hatred and discrimination they have endured, but as a community they have gone from being outsiders to insiders. So I asked a gay friend: “How’d you guys do it?”
In all fairness, like me, he is just trying to live his life. He is not trying to be an ambassador for gay men across America. He gave me an answer anyway. He thinks it comes down to TV and celebrities. As we have let more gay characters into our homes through sitcoms and talk shows, we have realized they are not different from us. We watch celebrities tell us they won’t marry unless everyone can marry, and it makes sense to us.
So, thank you, George Clooney!
For those of you who have not heard, Clooney is engaged. To Amal Alamuddin.
I don’t know if she is Muslim, and it doesn’t even matter. Her name is foreign and Muslim-sounding. As Barack Obama found in the first election, that’s enough. Clooney could choose almost any woman to be his life partner and he chose a Muslim (-sounding) Arab woman. If it’s celebrity endorsement we’re looking for, Don Draper couldn’t arrange it any better.
There will be haters — people who tell me that this whole line of argument is unIslamic and that I have no right or scholarly background that empowers me to speak for the religion. I don’t deny that. I’m not speaking for Muslims, I’m speaking as a Muslim. There’s a difference.
And as a Muslim, I want the world to know that we are regular people. We are regular people, but we are also people so beautiful, smart and engaging that George Clooney wants to marry us.
Spread the word.
Nina Hamza lives in Shorewood.