#Islamophobia and #Homophobia
Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Starting my day with hearing about some woman with a gun hiding somewhere in the streets of DC, not far to where I work, and ending it with a great Email from our fellow Ernesto calling for non-Muslim fellows group in solidarity outside the internet with their fellow Atlas corps Muslim fellows, it is clear that the events across the Atlantic has affected us in DC, the US has also shuns Syrian refugees, . Prior to the Paris tragic events, we already encountered America’s Islamophobic face. A face that is familiar to those who are old enough to remember stories of Islamophobic hate attacks following September 11th, and even the Oklahoma shootings (which were not related to Muslim extremism). Small incidents of hate words being shouted at us in the buses and the Metros did make many of us uncomfortable, but they won’t break us.

At 4 am in the morning, I remember my friends driving me to the Cairo International Airport, trying to make me cry and miss home by putting on emotional Egyptian patriotic songs about those far away; luckily I have consumed all my tears prior to that ride. I was traveling with many feelings, burdening indeed, but relaxing at the same time. Traveling with excitement from what potentials and knowledge I’ll embrace, with eagerness to meet Atlas corps fellows from all over the globe, learning about their cultures, and joining a collection of young world leaders. The ride to the airport was also troubled with fear, an expected feeling that I only started to realize recently. I am not homesick, quite the contrary, I don’t feel like an alien in Washington D.C., thanks to many Arabs and familiar American faces that remind me of home. The feeling of fear was being away from my comfort zone, a comfort zone that is not really a zone, but the presence of souls, scents and individuals that make you in peace. The smell of your father’s hair when you kiss it, your mother’s heartbeats when you’re hugging her, and your TV stuck sister, with her voice screaming in the next room to grab her water on your way back to the living room.

It’s not the fear of homesickness, but fear of the unknown. Many of these feelings were repressed to adjust in a new city with a new culture. Many of these feelings were changed with joy of freedom, liberty, acceptance, and discovering me more.  Leaving a society and culture that has not been progressing at the same rate that the rest of humanity has been, and joining a culture that is currently leading the world, through its movies, music and cuisines. It truly is a great adventure, and a lifetime experience.

TGIF, Its almost time to go out to party after a long week of work, I get a twitter notification of mass-usage of the hashtag #Paris, a city that I like to call home, was under attack, by not one, not two, three, five, seven, eight attacks in one night, taking the lives of many souls. I rarely watch TV here in DC, so I still can’t get my way around the news channels, after almost an hour of watching #Islamophobic speech; I realize I was watching #Fox_news. Yes, we all know how unprofessional they are, how they are always mocked by the more “progressive” liberal stations. I suddenly remembered the feelings I had in that 1 hour car ride from home to the Cairo Airport. Fear… the Atlas Corps fellows brings people that have went through Civil wars, Revolutions, Terrorism attacks, bombings, and wars, that threatened our lives, we shouldn’t be afraid of Islamophobia, we are living in a progressive intellectual American city, or so I reassured myself. But truth is, three Arab students were killed in cold blood in #ChapelHill North Carolina following the Charlie Hebdo attacks 10 months ago in Paris, truth is, Fox news is one of the most watched, the network had the top five programs in cable news in both total viewers and adults aged 25-54, in prime-time for the year, Fox ranked second in total viewers, (behind only ESPN), actually, Fox news has almost double the viewership that #CNN (also quite Islamophobic) has.
We certainly are hiding our fear; we are not used to show our weaknesses, at least to those who wouldn’t relate to it. We don’t get easily intimidated, if ever intimidated, but we are concerned. I at least, am concerned about my safety. I have already been mugged in DC, I have already heard of hate attacks to other fellows. Truth is, we are not safe, we are afraid…Truth is… I moved from a declared Homophobic society, to an undeclared Islamophobic one. The east may be suffering from Homophobia, but the west is certainly suffering from Islamophobia.

Ahmed Hafez
Batch 19, Atlas Corps Fellow
From Cairo, Egypt
Serving at HRC, Washington DC.



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