Fears on the first Ramazan night

Updated Jul 23, 2012 09:06am

Someone killed 12 people in a theatre in Aurora, Colorado. Please pray to God that the killer does not turn out to be a Muslim,” said a voice message on Rasheed’s cell phone as he was on highway 395, driving from Northern Virginia to Washington, DC.

Twenty minutes later, he entered Washington and stopped his cab at the first parking spot he found. Throughout the brief drive, he kept hearing the bell that warns of a text message.

There were six texts, all with the same message: “Lets pray the killer is not a Muslim.”

It was not a good beginning for the holy month. Ramazan is a special month for Washington’s cabbies. Many are Muslims, hundreds from South Asia to North Africa. Most drive all night and return home at dawn.

Nights are lonely and risky. Every cabdriver knows at least one colleague who was stabbed to death, died in an accident or retired hurt.

Loneliness, however, ended when the cell phones came. It is now possible to call friends and family from the cab. And also to stay in touch with each other.

Early nights are busy. But after 2 am they call each other regularly.

Ramazan, however, is different. They do not need the cell phones as much as they did in ordinary nights. Most cabbies go out to work right after iftar, work for about two hours and then go to mosques for taraveh.

In summer, taraveh prayers end around 11 pm, giving them about an hour for socialising after the prayers.

The bachelors – and those whose families are back home – often have their iftar, dinner and even pre-fast food at mosques, particularly at the Central Mosque, Washington. In between, they drive the cab.

Ramazan nights are not only for prayers, at least not for Washington’s cabdrivers. Some play cricket between taraveh and the pre-dawn feast. It is a lot of fun.

“But this year may be different if the killer is determined a Muslim,” said Rasheed to Omar, a fellow cabbie he called as soon as he parked his cab.

“Yes, things can get very difficult,” said Omar but cut short the conversation when a passenger flagged him. “I will call you later.”

Rasheed also got a passenger to Adams Morgan, a street famous for its clubs and bars. It was Friday night.

Waiting for the next passenger near Madame’s Organ Blues Bar, he again thought about the Aurora shooting. “Things indeed can get difficult if the killer is a Muslim,” he said to himself. Then the music coming out of the bar caught his attention. He repeated the tune unconsciously and then stopped.

“Such is America,” he said to himself, laughing quietly. “I ended my fast, finished my evening prayers and then took a passenger to a bar.

And now I am humming a tune. Such is America.” And he loves America for what it is.

He often argues with his friends that their home countries should also be as accommodating as America is.

“This is the route to success, tolerance for all creeds and ethnicities. I met people from half a dozen faiths, speaking a dozen different languages, in a single night,” he says.

The phone rang again. This was another Muslim cabbie, Ali. “Did you hear the news?” he asked. “Yes, I did,” said Rasheed. “What do you think will happen?” asked Ali. “I don’t know,” said Rasheed. “You remember the night when Faisal Shahzad, who tried to bomb New York Times Square, was arrested?” asked Ali.

Rasheed remembered it well. It was the first time in his 20 years in America that Rasheed heard two passengers openly discussing the possibility of putting all the Muslims in a camp. “So that we are safe,” said one. “I agree,” said the other.

One of them noticed Rasheed’s “foreignness” and asked where he was from. “India,” Rasheed lied, swallowing his pride. He was always proud of being a Pakistani and never thought one day he will have to identify himself as an Indian.

The text bell rang. There were more messages. “We pray he is not a Muslim,” wrote Shah. “Amen,” replied Hanif.

“We will be minced meat if he is a Pakistani,” wrote Khan. “Indeed,” replied Sattar. “The killer should not be a Muslim. I too pray to God.”

“Thank God, the TV channels are not yet playing the terrorism card,” wrote Beg who was at a restaurant which they called “Cabbies Night Refuge.”

As Rasheed was reading the messages, his wife called to check he was OK. Then his younger brother Hameed, who was a student at a community college in Virginia, called.

He said he had put this on his Facebook: “Please God, please make sure that the shooter is not a Muslim” and had received dozens of messages from other Muslim students, saying, “Amen.”

“What are your American friends saying?” asked Rasheed.

Hameed’s friend Todd told him he believed the killer was “more than likely a screwed up middle class kid from a dysfunctional home who hates the world and worships the perpetrators of the Columbine massacre.”

“The kid probably wanted to do something that in his twisted mind would make him feel all powerful. What a shame that he didn't just stay at home, put the gun to his own head and do the world a favour,” Todd added.

After Hameed, Rasheed’s friend Jamal, who worked at a gas station in Silver Spring, Maryland, called. “I am nervous too,” he said. “We all are,” said Rasheed.

Text messages and phone calls continued all night. All had the same message: Things will get really difficult for them if the shooter was found to be a Muslim.

Although it was Rasheed’s first pre-fast meal of Ramazan, Rasheed did not enjoy it. He kept worrying about the shooting and its possible consequences for Muslims in America.

He fondly remembered the pre-9/11 days, when America was a free country for Muslims too. They too were welcomed wherever they went.

“Not anymore. American people no longer trust Muslims. They fear them,” he thought. “God knows how many generations it will take for the images of 9/11 to fade away.”

Rasheed was still thinking about this when he went to sleep. It was an uneasy sleep. Usually, he wakes up early afternoon but today he woke up at noon and went straight to the computer.

He had dozens of e-mails from his friends. All were about the Aurora shooting.

“The suspect apprehended in the mass shooting at a suburban Denver movie theatre has been identified as James Holmes, 24. So far there is no indication it is terrorism-related,” said one.

“Our hearts go out to the families of the victims of this terrible tragedy.  May God give them the courage to bear this great loss, Amen,” his friend wrote.

There was another message from an Indian friend. “A criminal is a criminal irrespective of his caste, creed or culture and at the same time you were right to fear the possible consequences if the killer were a Muslim,” wrote Ghosh. “Islamophobia is real.”

“The point is that killing is cruel and inhuman, regardless of whether it is done with a motive, without one, for an ideology, in revenge, for terrorism or in the name of anti-terrorism,” wrote a third friend, Khurshid.

Rasheed closed the computer, performed ablution and prayed. First two prayers of “shukrana” or gratitude because the killer was not a Muslim. Then he prayed for the victims and their family, asking God to bless them all.

 


The author is a correspondent for Dawn, based in Washington, DC.

 

 


The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.


Anwar Iqbal is a correspondent for Dawn, based in Washington, DC.


The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

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Comments (61) (Closed)


John B.
Jul 21, 2012 02:18pm
Pakistan has has lost over 41,000 civilians, over 3500 military personnel, and over $81Billion in economic costs, commercial opportunities, and infra-structure, in fighting America's war. It as deployed over 110,000troops at own cost. No other country, including America, has lost even a fraction of this loss in personnel, property, and treasure. How then do you figure that Pakistan supports terrorism?
Raj
Jul 26, 2012 05:49pm
When Pakistanis are in a foreign country and are in minority, they tend to become more polite, friendly and call themselves Indian. But whenever they are in majority, the true colors comes out. Whenever, the issue of religion comes in, they can go to any extent. Most of the terrorists in European or western countries are unfortunately Pakistanis and they were well educated and neighbours thought they were nice guys. So the saying goes "Never trust a Pakisani" . I have seen Pakistani men who are entered USA illegally, marrying white girls. Thereafter, they convert those white girls. One of my liberal Pakistani told me that whenever he goes to the mosques, the Imam always preached and told them to marry white young girls and convert them, have more children, so that one day, they will have majority in USA. Just see the situation in Assam - local tribe are now in minority and muslims are in majority, and they have MPs now.
Raj
Jul 26, 2012 05:51pm
Mashafiq - Convert back to your forefather's original religion and you will live peacefully.
Raj
Jul 26, 2012 05:51pm
Also tell them that your great forefathers were not muslim and were forcefully converted.
Raj
Jul 26, 2012 05:53pm
Absolutely correct. A moderate muslim is "Ahamadi" and good muslim is a dead one.
Raj
Jul 26, 2012 05:54pm
Go and help the non-muslims in Pakistan and then you are true human (not muslim)
Raj
Jul 26, 2012 05:56pm
Before 1986, Kashmir was a paradise and you guys have made it hell. Gave a part of it to China and shouting "Democracy"
Abdus Salam Khan
Jul 21, 2012 06:47pm
A very real representation of the predicament the Muslims, especially the Pakistanis are in. The article sent me roilling down memory lane,back to 1948. I was under trainig with the Royal Navy in England and was serving on a destroyer when th news broke about the assasination of Mahatama Gandhi. The captain of the ship sent for me, offered dme a cup of tea in his qaurters and asked me about the ramifications of this ghastly incident. " I hope and pray it is not a Muslim!" was my immediate repsonse.
chak
Jul 21, 2012 10:10am
Phobia is generally associated with irrational. Is islamophobia irrational? are non-muslims living without fear in areas where thr are a lot of muslims? are muslims living without fear in areas where there are only muslims? i mean seriously, who are we kidding?
@gikiian
Jul 21, 2012 10:06am
They're calling him a 'nice guy' who had job problems.
Yanuar Perdana
Jul 23, 2012 03:31pm
A good article. Muslim-hating Islamophobic people always HATE Muslims regardless whether Muslims do wrong or not.
marghoob ahmed
Jul 21, 2012 06:26pm
Yes We are always afraid when any such incidence occurs and pray GOD that he may not be a Muslim or Pakistani.
guest
Jul 21, 2012 06:00pm
May be you can point out in the article where it says he was motivated by his Christian faith to kill people?
Tariq
Jul 21, 2012 04:47pm
It is perceived that there is safety in numbers for expats when living in foreign country.
Akshay
Jul 21, 2012 04:58pm
Exactly. First they wanted a separate country for the Muslims to be 'safe' and now look at them! Now they are embarrassed to even have any association with their land or being called its citizen. Them calling themselves Indian is shameful for us. My request, Please leave India alone and call yourselves what you really are.
tee
Jul 21, 2012 06:40pm
I agree partially to what you are saying. I run a restaurant in US, we were also skeptical about calling it Pakistani restaurant alone. The reason we didn't do that is purely commercial. Many people do not know what Pakistani food is like. Americans are well aware of Indian food but not Pakistani. And we primarily wanted to sell our food, which is way different form Indian food sold in America, therefore we named it Pakistani-Indian restaurant to keep the local business coming. We, at least were not scared about the reception at all. I see when people change their ethnicity for various reasons. In difficult situations you can do that to save your respect, life and whatever. And that does not make you any less Pakistani at all.
Blogger
Jul 21, 2012 07:43am
If that person turns out to be muslim, then the badge of terrorist should be awarded him.
@ImranAslamCh
Jul 21, 2012 07:47am
If thar person turns out to be muslim then the badge of terrorist would have been awarded to him.
Mashafiq
Jul 21, 2012 07:49am
Thanks God the shooter wasn't Muslim or a Pakistani but I'm astonished why they didn't categorize it as terrorism. And as far as "God knows how many generations it will take for the images of 9/11 to fade away." is concerned, the haters of Muslim community staged an event, branded the Muslims and here we are worrying. To fade this perception, we need clarity of mind and a clear understanding of the word terrorism. Unfortunately, the word terrorism has been associated with us and the events that followed 9/11 affirm this. It's sort of marketing where Bin Ladens and Al Qaeedas are brand characters (Like the clown of McDonalds, Cernel of KFC etc.) and events are equivalent to marketing promotions and the result: a reaffirmation that Muslims are the wrong ones :(
anony
Jul 21, 2012 07:53am
I am a Pakistani living in Colorado SPrings. I too was praying that this xcuse of a life person doesn't turn out to be a muslim. I live in a rented basement in a house owned by a very nice american family. They have never ever made me feel foreign and are very welcoming. They do have questions every now n then about muslims and islam but overall both the husband,wife and the kids are very nice people., They were as much excited as I was, when I explained to them about Ramadan and fasting. Infact, they asked if they need to do anything special so that my fast goes well. Even though I'm still a foreigner in this country, I have met some wonderful people here and love the place.
MOHD MUSHTAQ HAJI
Jul 21, 2012 07:56am
A good article .Let the people take this message as a lesson that if we do not treat minorities in pakistan nicely than we should not expect other countries to treat our pakistani any better than us.
Brijesh
Jul 21, 2012 08:06am
If Pakistan stops supporting terrorism - such breast beating will not be necessary.
rk singh
Jul 21, 2012 08:07am
"One of them noticed Rasheed’s “foreignness” and asked where he was from. “India,” Rasheed lied, swallowing his pride. He was always proud of being a Pakistani and never thought one day he will have to identify himself as an Indian". This kind of incidences I found a lot in Europe. All Pakistanis who run restaurants call themselves "Indian Restaurants". They can call themselves Pakistani Restaurants. But they are scared of the reception.
M. Wanza
Jul 21, 2012 02:03pm
“Thank God, the TV channels are not yet playing the terrorism card,” Well, Syndicated Radio, composed of over 750 radio stations, played it to the hilt striking terror into the heart of Muslims living in the US.
An American Muslim
Jul 21, 2012 02:00pm
“Faisal Shahzad, who tried to bomb New York Times Square” The fact lost in the spin against Muslims: A Muslim vendor saw, tried to catch and almost caught him, told the police about him, in time, or he would have escaped, almost did.
umesh
Jul 21, 2012 08:40am
Wish the same..
Amir
Jul 22, 2012 02:06pm
To say that Americans are not aware of Pakistani food is wrong. They understand and appreciate Pakistani food which is different from Indian.
Mian Zain
Jul 21, 2012 09:08am
Reading you is always a pleasure. Much thanks for the representation.
Tamzin
Jul 21, 2012 09:17am
Yes, it is a good thing it wasn't a Muslim. Every time there is a terrorist somewhere, Muslims have the same prayer - don't let it turn out to be a Muslim. Strange that the US doesn't seem to label this man a terrorist. One wonders if it had been a Muslim, if they would have labeled him a terrorist and tried to find some link to AQ? The Norwegians do call their one terrorist a terrorist. Why don't the Americans do the same for those who terrorize and kill people when they are Christians?
Cyrus Howell
Jul 21, 2012 09:44am
BBC News has gotten the same messages.
Dr Mazhar
Jul 21, 2012 12:33pm
will anyone tell me why such incidents are not called terrorist attackes and why killer (non-muslim) cannot be a terrorist?
Lalit
Jul 22, 2012 10:59am
what is the difference between a killer and a terrorist?answer is intention or motive.if someone is killing to strike terror or impose certain ideology(case of Norwegian Anders Breivik), he can be termed a terrorist,while in the given case no such intentions have been detected so far. nevertheless it does not absolve him from the murders he has committed.so at the most he is a twisted mind from a disturbed family background,who will now face charges of multiple homicide. don't compare an individual case with systematic and religiously propelled hateful crimes which draws inspiration from their twisted versions of religion.
Deepak Anand
Jul 21, 2012 01:36pm
Haji saab, it touched me the way u took the lesson. God bless u.
U.E. Hayyat
Jul 21, 2012 07:52pm
This is exactly what I have witnessed recently.
Abdullah Hussain
Jul 21, 2012 07:57pm
As a Muslim it becomes our religious duty to abstain from hurting anyone by any means. All those Muslims out there hurting peoples are in fact doing a very bad thing to themselves & Islam. Islam is a divine religion sent for the benefit of mankind in particular & rest of the creations in general. Having said this I would also like to emphasis that others should also refrain from hurting innocent Muslims. Wrong done by an individual cannot be blamed on the entire community of that person otherwise reactions cannot be stopped. In my opinion double standard is the main culprit responsible for most of the problems
Adil Jadoon
Jul 21, 2012 08:09pm
Pakistan supporting terrorism? you really need to extend your reading and perhaps stop watching so much television.
Joe
Jul 21, 2012 08:22pm
Good people make a difference, anywhere in the world. Here in Florida USA, we go for lunch to a Pakistani restaurant together with a friend from Afghanistan. It is always a friendly, positive, open atmosphere. (And the pakoras are wonderful.)
abc
Jul 21, 2012 08:35pm
I live in Munich, and there is a "Lahori Restaurant" near the main railway station, Which had written "pakistanische Küche(Pakistani food). Indisches Küche(Indian food). The word "Pakistani" was written before "Indian" on a big green sign board outside the restaurant. But, after a few months, they had put green paint on the "pakistanische Küche(Pakistani food)" sign. and only Indian remains. I wonder why?
abc
Jul 21, 2012 08:41pm
There is a differance between the Norwegian shooter and this one. The norwegian one was a terrorist, because he had a botched idea on religion and faith and he planned his attack with a certain motive. However, this guy is a misguided youth, who killed people for the love of killing, without following any ideology, just like a shooter in German school in 2009, who was also not labled a terrorist, but a dreaded criminal. A killer without the support of an ideology is not a terrorist.
Chinto
Jul 22, 2012 12:09am
Pakistanis are insecure and have always been. What about the Halal Guys selling shwarmas in street of NY. They never had a problem mentioning that they are muslims.
Shawn
Jul 22, 2012 01:21am
It's not strange. It's good. But your worries are not misplaced. Of course, we don't know if this person was Christian, atheist, or whatever -- don't jump to conclusions. Just enjoy this thoughtful and well-written essay.
AHA
Jul 22, 2012 01:39am
"Please pray to God that the killer does not turn out to be a Muslim", Those were my first thoughts as well.
Baba Sidni
Jul 22, 2012 01:42am
I don not run any restaurant, but I can can vouch for their feelings. There are more Indian customers, than Pakistanis, plus in the West, every one knows about the Indian cuisine, Pakistani cuisine is virtually unknown, although same as of North Indian flavor, being of same origin, so to attract customers, they have to advertise as Indian restaurants.
ahmed41
Jul 22, 2012 04:38am
"-----God knows how many generations it will take for the images of 9/11 to fade away.” Some impressions of events become a perpetual national trauma !!!! Remember the Wild West phrase : " The only good injun is a dead one !!"
Fhabib
Jul 22, 2012 04:46am
very thoughtful article.
George - San Diego
Jul 22, 2012 06:38am
When would the killing come to a stop in Pakistan
George - San Diego
Jul 22, 2012 06:41am
When would the killings in Pakistan come to a full stop?
Tahiri
Jul 22, 2012 07:25am
Mr. Briijesh. pakistan is not a supporter of such terrorism yeah but pakistan do support international collation against terrorism. in fact pakistan is suffering more then any other country in the world due to these miscreants. it's because of them daily our country mans are suffering form suicide attacks, shooting in busy areas, anarchy, destabilize economy. fear but still we are supporting the international collation.Proud to be a Pakistani.
Ahmad
Jul 22, 2012 07:27am
You and ur ignorant minds...
Ahmad
Jul 22, 2012 07:29am
A hundred likes...
jaria
Jul 22, 2012 08:10pm
u reap what u sow
Asif Ansari
Jul 22, 2012 08:19pm
See, how the public mind has changed!
Saeed
Jul 22, 2012 11:07pm
When people ask me where I am from, I always say I am from Pakistan originally.
Omair
Jul 23, 2012 06:03am
Anyone spreading terror is terrorist. Doesn't have to follow an ideology.
Blanche Perkins
Jul 24, 2012 12:33am
Your first thoughts were not for the innocent people that were killed, but for your own reputation??????? How very considerate of you....!!!!!!! B Perkins
Shuja
Jul 24, 2012 02:51am
When we all Pakistanis are sincere with our country
Ram krishan
Jul 24, 2012 04:49am
Most of the terrorist today come from Islamic faith . Read today's Dawn " 107 people killed by al Queda in Iraq". Thus Muslim killing a Muslim during the holy month of Ramzaan for some ideaology.
saythetruth
Jul 24, 2012 09:06am
Two thumbs up for Tahiri!!!!!!!
Salim Langda
Jul 24, 2012 05:01pm
Good for you
Salim Langda
Jul 24, 2012 05:08pm
I absolutely agree with your comment. An exception that I have observed is with the Pakistani Tea House in NYC. A good small eatery, that proudly displays their nationality. I had visited it after the Faisal incident and was surprised to find it empty... (a place typically bustling with people!) I have definitely seen Pakistanis hide their nationality in front of others, except in front of Indians. I guess there is a sense of oneness (apnapan) with desis OR just not that easy since the accent can be easily identified! Bangaldeshis are very different. They are proud to be Bangla and are more accepting. With Pakistanis, it is more of an Hobsons Choice.
siddra
Jul 25, 2012 07:14am
I think we have been over rated as Muslims because we have been portrayed as terrorists for last few years. this is not right at all we should at least raise our voice and try to to do something and i believe these blogs are good as a platform to be used. Ramzan is the holy month for Muslims we have to respect the Muslims and ramzan http://goo.gl/eqi7r