In the days and weeks that followed 9/11, we were gripped with incomparable fear. Mothers on soccer sidelines whispered about gas masks on e-Bay. We questioned the efficacy of duct-taped plastic wrap as a household barrier against chemical warfare.
The hysteria has since been quelled, but the fear remains, simmering, and reminders of our vulnerability - a car bomb in Glasgow, Michael Chertoff's "gut feeling"- are too frequent.
But I fear more than potential acts of terrorism: I fear the angry swell of our own anti-Muslim backlash. I fear the ugly vitriol spewed forth on the Internet, where anonymous commentators unleash torrents of raw hatred. When The Courant reported on the Muslim convention, the reader responses on the paper's website were so hateful and profane that the editors shut the comment thread down.
I fear for the Pakistani and Indian boys and girls in Glastonbury, who hear other children hiss "terrorist!" as they brush past in school hallways. I fear for the West Hartford teenage Muslim who denies his faith to avoid being bullied. We've become a nation that sanctions hate against 1.2 billion fellow inhabitants of the planet - very frightening.
In an effort to confront my fears, I attended the annual convention, which offered a free symposium for non-Muslims....
When I left the conference and entered the parking garage, I saw a Muslim woman walking in my way. Her face was covered, except for her eyes, by a veil - a niqab. My discomfort and uncertainty returned: Should I say hello? Is she allowed to speak to me? Does she hate me? Is she afraid? Am I?
We approached one another. A casual voice came from under the niqab, "Hi, how're you doing?" I could see the smile in her eyes.
I responded in kind. As people do. [Link]
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