The act of reacting

I like Ryan Gosling. That is not a secret for me to bring to my grave. People would, somehow, assume that I like Ryan Gosling because butter could melt the second it makes contact with him. Even though that is half the truth, that is only half the truth. The other reason I like Ryan Gosling is because of his undeniable talent as an actor. He would not be an Academy Award nominee otherwise. I would also assume that it shocks people to find out that, although I can watch Crazy, Stupid, Love on repeat until his next movie comes out, my favourite Ryan Gosling movie is actually The Believer. After thinking long and hard about it, it finally hit me that the reason behind my admiration for The Believer is because I can relate to his character as a Jew (Ryan Gosling) who is part of the Neo-Nazi movement. I am not as extreme as his character is in the movie, hopefully, but I can relate partially with the frustration he feels with fellow brothers and sisters in faith.

When I entered college, and even before then, it baffles me that not a lot of Muslims in my immediate circle really care about the goings-on in the world. In fact, some even find it cool to proclaim, “I don’t care about politics!” I simply could not get my head around it. How can you not care about the actions of individuals and/or groups that have a trickling down effect to the everyday living of each and every one of us? But then I took a long deep breath to compose myself and understand that even my fascination with international politics stem from my very own personal experiences, and unless my shadow starts to have a life of its own, no one else in the world have the exact same experiences as me, nor the exact same passion.

As I wrote in all my graduate school application essays, the reason I decided to study the Middle East and Islam is rooted in my shock over the September 11 terrorist attacks. I grew up reading fictions set in America, listening to American music, and watching American television shows. Even though I have yet to set foot in the United States back then, I already felt like I understood it. I remember thinking, by hook or by crook, I am going to spend my early adult life studying in the land of the free. And then it happened. The image is still vivid in my mind. It was night in Malaysia, and I was in the car with my father and brother, when my father received a call from his friend telling him about the twin tower. We went home, turned on CNN, and I saw my dreams turned into rubble that night. At twelve years old, my father said to me, “I don’t think you’re going to America.”

Sure, to those who knew me back then, they would say, “But didn’t you want to be a psychologist?” Yes, that’s true, but the impetus behind my wanting to learn psychology is the same as my motivation to do what I am currently doing: I want to understand how my fellow Muslims could do such atrocious acts toward innocent victims, something that obviously goes against the teaching of our faith. I do not like to think of myself as a self-hating Muslim, because I believe that we should not look at the problem with the current state of our ummah through the lens of Islamic essentialism. Instead, the problem lies in the fact that nobody wants to take responsibility. Everybody wants to escape blame. How are we, as an ummah, then going to progress if only insults are hurled back and forth?

Last week, a British soldier was killed in broad daylight on the streets of London by two Muslim men. As much as I am infuriated by their actions, I am also reminded of the reason I am here in the first place. This is the kind of disease in our community that I hope could one day be eradicated with at least a small contribution on my part. My wish is that in the future no other young girl would have her hopes and dreams dashed by the actions of cruel and heartless terrorists, Muslim or otherwise.


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