An Open Letter From An American Muslim After A Terrorist Attack

An Open Letter From An American Muslim After A Terrorist Attack

We are people just like everyone else. We are doctors, lawyers, engineers, students, makers of change.
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I sat in front of my computer as I typed this article away with trembling hands. Before this, I was busy watching the last of the Halloween movie marathons and handing out Halloween candy to the neighborhood kids. But, all of that quickly dispersed as my phone blared a notification from The New York Times announcing breaking news. I don't know what made me check my phone. I always ignore these notifications.

That's when my eyes widened in horror as I finally grasped the words of the headline. There had been an attack. In Manhattan. Before I could pray that this act was not one carried out in the name of terrorism and that no one was seriously hurt, I was already too late.

The mayor had already deemed the accident as a terrorist attack. And lives had been lost.

I quickly scrolled through the article with tears in my eyes. What had happened was horrific. No one deserved that. But what disturbed me more were the comments that were plaguing the comments sections on most, if not all, platforms airing this horror. They deemed all Muslims as the center of this conspiracy. They blamed the fact that NYC was a sanctuary city as the reason for the attack. But this had nothing to do with all Muslims; it had something to do with his own personal decision.

He was a man from Florida. And a U.S. citizen.

The attacker being Muslim was merely one of the identities that made him a person. A person, especially a psychotic person as this one, needs to be seen as a whole and not a part. His Muslim identity is not the only thing that defines him, but unfortunately, the media chooses to focus on that. Had he not uttered the so seemingly Muslim words after running out like a coward, he would've been deemed a madman instead of a terrorist.

It scares me to think that instead of standing up for one another, people choose to cowardly sit behind their computer screens and spew hateful remarks that assign blame to innocent people. It's sad that these people choose to divide us, instead of standing as a united front in the face of adversity.

As American Muslims, that's what scares us.

Being blamed for someone who we are not even remotely connected with. We are Americans just like others. We have earned our right to live here and make our lives as promised by the American Dream. We are doctors, lawyers, engineers, students, teachers, artists, and the makers of change. We stand with America, although it is quite stupid that we have to keep proving our patriotism for the country we have chosen to reside in; a country which we have given our rights to and a country which has gifted us with a new life.

So here goes. My name is Rubia Shahbaz. And I am an American Muslim. I (and all the other American Muslims) do not support his heinous crime. We are Americans before we are citizens of any other country. We swore our oath to America when we were granted citizenship.

God Bless America and all the humans that reside here.

Cover Image Credit: astoller / Flickrastoller

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​An Open Letter To The People Who Don’t Tip Their Servers

This one's for you.
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Dear Person Who Has No Idea How Much The 0 In The “Tip:" Line Matters,

I want to by asking you a simple question: Why?

Is it because you can't afford it? Is it because you are blind to the fact that the tip you leave is how the waiter/waitress serving you is making their living? Is it because you're just lazy and you “don't feel like it"?

Is it because you think that, while taking care of not only your table but at least three to five others, they took too long bringing you that side of ranch dressing? Or is it just because you're unaware that as a server these people make $2.85 an hour plus TIPS?

The average waiter/waitress is only supposed to be paid $2.13 an hour plus tips according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

That then leaves the waiter/waitress with a paycheck with the numbers **$0.00** and the words “Not a real paycheck." stamped on it. Therefore these men and women completely rely on the tips they make during the week to pay their bills.

So, with that being said, I have a few words for those of you who are ignorant enough to leave without leaving a few dollars in the “tip:" line.

Imagine if you go to work, the night starts off slow, then almost like a bomb went off the entire workplace is chaotic and you can't seem to find a minute to stop and breathe, let alone think about what to do next.

Imagine that you are helping a total of six different groups of people at one time, with each group containing two to 10 people.

Imagine that you are working your ass off to make sure that these customers have the best experience possible. Then you cash them out, you hand them a pen and a receipt, say “Thank you so much! It was a pleasure serving you, have a great day!"

Imagine you walk away to attempt to start one of the 17 other things you need to complete, watch as the group you just thanked leaves, and maybe even wave goodbye.

Imagine you are cleaning up the mess that they have so kindly left behind, you look down at the receipt and realize there's a sad face on the tip line of a $24.83 bill.

Imagine how devastated you feel knowing that you helped these people as much as you could just to have them throw water on the fire you need to complete the night.

Now, realize that whenever you decide not to tip your waitress, this is nine out of 10 times what they go through. I cannot stress enough how important it is for people to realize that this is someone's profession — whether they are a college student, a single mother working their second job of the day, a new dad who needs to pay off the loan he needed to take out to get a safer car for his child, your friend, your mom, your dad, your sister, your brother, you.

If you cannot afford to tip, do not come out to eat. If you cannot afford the three alcoholic drinks you gulped down, plus your food and a tip do not come out to eat.

If you cannot afford the $10 wings that become half-off on Tuesdays plus that water you asked for, do not come out to eat.

If you cannot see that the person in front of you is working their best to accommodate you, while trying to do the same for the other five tables around you, do not come out to eat. If you cannot realize that the man or woman in front of you is a real person, with their own personal lives and problems and that maybe these problems have led them to be the reason they are standing in front of you, then do not come out to eat.

As a server myself, it kills me to see the people around me being deprived of the money that they were supposed to earn. It kills me to see the three dollars you left on a $40 bill. It kills me that you cannot stand to put yourself in our shoes — as if you're better than us. I wonder if you realize that you single-handedly ruined part of our nights.

I wonder if maybe one day you will be in our shoes, and I hope to God no one treats you how you have treated us. But if they do, then maybe you'll realize how we felt when you left no tip after we gave you our time.

Cover Image Credit: Hailea Shallock

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I Went Abroad To 'Find Myself' But To My Surprise, I Was So Wrong

Finding yourself is like a Jenga tower and my hands shake too much.

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When studying abroad, I feel like you either go to find yourself or you soon realize you will not return the same person you were before.

Whether it was purposeful or completely by accident, being abroad changes the deepest parts of you that you never realized could be changed. When we are home, we are a solid Jenga tower where everything fits in place as it should. Then as you leave your comfort zone, you have to take away some old pieces and rearrange things to better suit your new environment.

Some pieces are harder to remove and some glide out of place so easily, you question why they were there in the first place. All the while, you feel a bit more unsteady and you don't look up to realize you've grown taller than you ever were before.

Morocco is a beautiful country that I love very much. I thought I knew the reality of Morocco and what I was getting myself into. So many parts of this journey have been beautiful and amazing but there are things I haven't shared in the light of social media that I have been struggling with.

The main thing I am struggling with are the rules in Morocco.

You can walk in the middle of the highway, but you have three pairs of house shoes and rules on when and where to wear those shoes. I thought I always dressed modestly but I learned very quickly that I do not. I have struggled to find the balance between being modest enough, but not too modest to wear a hijab because that is something I should not do.

I have felt like there is this list of rules floating above my head that I can't reach to know what they are, so I keep breaking all of them.

I have really felt like I have lost my identity.

I thought coming to Morocco would allow me to find myself, but I am told when to eat, what to eat, how much to eat, what to wear, how many layers to wear, when to sleep, how long to sleep, what emotions I am allowed to feel, when I am allowed to feel them, how I am allowed to show my feelings, and so on.

What is the line between being culturally sensitive and being culturally puppeted?

I have cried and prayed so much. Not once have I wished to go home. Not once have I questioned God's plan. He has told me that my identity is not found in what rules I follow and which I break. My identity is not found in what I wear or how I wear it. My identity is not found in anything I do or don't do. My identity is found in Him alone.

That hasn't changed anyone around me, but it has made me stronger. It has given me an image of the plan God has for me. He gave me the image of a Jenga tower. Parts of me have to be taken away, worked on and put back in a new place in order for me to grow. While I might wobble and feel unsteady, God has a steady hand. He will not move too many pieces so that I fall over.

But even if my Jenga tower falls and everything I am crashes down, He will build me up again.

When you are finding yourself, if you really want to change, it is going to be hard, you are going to be unsteady at times and things will get messy. I have definitely seen how I place my identity in the hands of those around me. I went around the world looking for myself only to see how silly it is because I am found in Christ.

You can tell me how to dress and how to feel but that is not who I am. I am a child of God and He is pleased. Anything beyond that is man-made.

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