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4 Eating Habits You Should Avoid This Ramadan

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By Zahra Osman

Ramadan is here and we’re all excited. Some of you are excited because you can’t wait for the seasonal Ramadan dishes. Some of you are excited because Ramadan can be a kickstart for your weight loss regime. And some of you are excited simply because its Ramadan. You’re anticipating the rewards and benefits that come along with the challenges of this blessed month. Hopefully, most of you fall into the third category! But even if you’re in this third group, it’s possible that your eating habits in the nights of Ramadan are harming your performance throughout the entire month.

Ramadan is like a marathon; not eating during the race is the easy part. It is the other factors like focus, discipline, and strategizing your time and energy that help you win the race. And during training, what you eat and how you eat can make the race more difficult or it can put you ahead of the competition. In other words, your post-iftar eating habits can either help you make the most of Ramadan or it can lead to the laziness and sicknesses that prevent too many people from maximizing the potential rewards that await them. There are people who get so sick during Ramadan because of their eating choices that the doctor actually orders them to stop fasting! Now, if you don’t want that happening to you, then pay close attention to these common practices that are cutting into our Ramadan performance power.

1. Breaking your fast with greasy foods

Somosas, springrolls, pakora, fried dumplings, fried chicken, french fries, wings, etc. The iftar meal is hardly ever missing one of these snacks. I know, they seem to taste so much better during Ramadan, but you’re doing a huge disservice to your digestive system when you break your fast with such items. Eating greasy foods on an empty stomach can lead to indigestion, which is responsible for the stomach cramping and bloating that makes you want to skip out on taraweeh. It’s also extremely counter-productive to your health and fitness goals.

To be honest, you’re not entirely to blame for craving these foods at iftar time. Researchers using functional MRI brain scans found that, on an empty stomach, the body focuses on feeding itself high-calorie foods to try to get blood sugar levels back to normal. This is why, when you’re hungry, you’re almost willing to eat anything, especially fatty foods.

So what should I do?

Follow the sunnah. “The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) used to break his fast with fresh dates before he prayed. If he did not find fresh dates then he would use dried dates. If he did not find that also he drank a few sips of water”. [Ahmad and Abu Dawood]. Dates are extremely effective in raising blood sugars quickly because they’re easily and quickly absorbed. This is a much healthier alternative than turning to fatty foods to normalize blood sugar.

Eat fruits. When you eat fruits on an empty stomach it does a much better job at detoxifying your system and supplying you with tons of energy, than if you were to eat it after your meal. Its a win-win situation because you get the health benefits of the fruits and you’re well fuelled for the night of ibaadah ahead.

I can’t tell you to completely abandon the samosas, so if you can’t resist, then eat in moderation and limit the number. At least this way you won’t put so much pressure on your digestive system. Or you may want to consider baking them like I do.

2. Eating too quickly

I know, you need to catch the salaah. But slow down. Chew. Sit and enjoy. Your brain needs about 15-20 minutes before it signals to your stomach that you’re full. This means that if you’re eating faster than your brain can signal, you can end up eating a lot more than you need . One Japanese study found that eating too quickly was strongly associated with being overweight. Also, I don’t have to tell you about the discomfort that comes with overeatting. Productive Muslim has a fantastic cartoon detailing that.

So What Should I do?

Converse while you eat. I don’t mean to talk with your mouthful, but chat with your family members and those at the table with you. Conversing will help slow down your pace of eating, which should give you more time to chew as you listen, and breaks between bites as you speak. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) would speak with his companions while he ate. For example, the ahaadith, “Mention the name of Allah and eat from that which is closest to you” and  “What a good condiment vinegar is” and many more were said by the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) during a meal.

Also, from his ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) sunnah is to eat with three fingers. This will help you take smaller portion bites. Or you may want to physically place your fork or spoon down between bites so that your stomach has more time to register the food coming in.

3. Not drinking enough fluids

Some of us barely drink enough water in a normal day, and with only about a 6 hour eating window, it’s not surprising that we may be on the brink of dehydration. Water is important brothers and sisters, especially during this month. You’re fasting and it’s hot outside! Not drinking enough fluids can lead to dehydration, constipation and other digestive illnesses which can make the month of striving a month of medical intervention.

So What Should I do?

Simple; drink more fluids. If you’re not much of a water drinker, try to have soups and eat fruits with large water content. Avoid sugary drinks and too much caffeine because they can inhibit water absorption.

4. Skipping Suhoor

Some people skip suhoor because they say it makes them hungrier?! And some people just want that extra bit of sleep. Its true that eating suhoor is a sunnah and so one has the choice, but when you skip it, not only are you missing out on major rewards, but you’re also setting yourself up for failure. How? There are tons of studies showing that eating a healthy breakfast produces tremendous physical and mental benefits which leave you feeling good for most of the day.

Also, when you skip out on breakfast or suhoor, you are less likely to get the recommended servings of fibre, vitamins, and minerals which could be crucial in helping you achieve the optimal health necessary for surviving this month of jihad.

So What Should I do?

Simple. Eat suhoor! But don’t make the mistake of eating just anything, like leftover pizza and samosas from iftar. Aim for foods rich in fiber and those that provide you with a good source of energy. You may want to try preparing suhoor before going to bed so that not much effort is required in the morning. Preparing in advance also comes in handy for those days you oversleep.

 

Ramadan is the month of the Quran, a month for striving to seek closeness with Allah. But we can’t ignore the seasonal experience and beautiful atmosphere it brings along with it, and for many cultures and traditions food is part of that experience. In some homes, Ramadan may be the only time the entire family sits together for a meal. Also iftar parties help bring people together who are often too busy during the year to connect. So we can’t downplay the role food plays during this blessed season. However, we must make the right choices so that we can combine pleasure with productivity!

There is so much to say and to add to this topic of good and bad eating habits during Ramadan. What are some traditions, habits and foods you eat during Ramadan that help you stay productive? I’d love to hear some of your tips and suggestions on how we can improve our eating habits for optimal health and fitness. Remember that all actions are by intentions. And so, if you intend to adjust your eating style to be stronger so that you can worship Allah better, then the reward is in that delicious meal!


Bio: Zahra Osman is a teacher and is currently pursing a masters in education with a focus on curriculum and pedagogy. She is passionate about empowering Muslims to be high achievers and building confidence in their Islamic identities. She maintains a blog at www.ummempowered.com, a personal development platform dedicated to inspiring and motivating Muslim moms to realize their full potential.

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6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Avatar

    C

    July 1, 2015 at 11:14 PM

    Great advice! I’m always tempted to go for the greasy fried food, and sometimes I do, but I’ve noticed I always feel so much better the next day when I’m fasting if I skip the greasy stuff and am careful to eat lots of vegetables at iftar.

    • Avatar

      Zahra Osman

      July 14, 2015 at 6:06 PM

      MashaAllaah, you’re very disciplined! That feeling makes it all worth it doesn’t it?

  2. Avatar

    Haider Rehman

    July 2, 2015 at 9:32 AM

    I just can resist Samosas and pakoras!

    • Avatar

      Zahra Osman

      July 14, 2015 at 6:05 PM

      I know what you mean! Try baking them as an alternative, it tastes great!

  3. Avatar

    Safiyyah Idris

    July 3, 2015 at 2:50 AM

    As Salaamu Alaikum. Beautiful nasihah. However, the last part about the sahoor being a Sunnah and implying that because of that it can be skipped is not good nasihah. There is Sunnah and there is Sunnah Makhru which means so strong it is almost fard. There are many Blessings in the Sahoor according to the Hadiths (Sahih Bukhari Vol. 2 – The Book Of Fasting) and also Fiqh, which tells you that you have to have the Sahoor “even if it is a few sips if water.” I need all the Blessings I can get, Inshaa Allah. Jazaaki. Wa Alaikum As Salaam.

    • Avatar

      Zahra Osman

      July 14, 2015 at 6:04 PM

      wa’alaykumus salaam wa rahmatullahi wa barakaatuh

      Jazakillahu khairan for the feedback. I agree we’re in need of all the blessing we can possibly get and that’s why I mentioned skipping suhoor will deprive you of the great reward attached to it.

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Podcast: Lessons from the Life of Malcolm X | Abdul-Malik Ryan

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One of the things that happens with historical figures who continue to remain well-known and influential years after they can continue to speak for themselves is that others seek to speak for them.  Attempts are made to co-opt their legacy, either in sincere efforts for good or in selfish efforts for ideological or even commercial gain.  This is especially true of Malcolm X, who is not only a historical and political icon but in many ways a “celebrity” remembered by many primarily for his style and attitude.

The only real and meaningful tribute we can pay to Malcolm X is to follow his example. Click To Tweet

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Once, while in class at college, an Arab girl I was sitting next to said quite loudly to another, “Hey, give this paper to the ‘abdah” referring to a black girl in the class. I wondered if she was even aware of what she was saying in English. Did she think that ‘abdah translates to “black girl” and never thought of its true meaning? Did she think that I didn’t understand?

 

Read by Zeba Khan, originally posted here on Muslimmatters.org.

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When Racism Goes Viral: The Coronavirus And Modern Muslim Orientalism

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Lumping an entire people together for collective punishment, reveling in their suffering, and sniggering at their food choices isn’t an exercise in science, Sunnah, or compassion. It’s good, old-fashioned orientalism.

In the eight weeks since it was identified, the 2019 novel coronavirus has infected nearly 12,000 people in China alone, 200 of whom did not survive. Symptoms are flu-like in nature, and global side effects include acute, apparently contagious… racism.

Online, in Muslim as well as non-Muslim spaces, social media feeds are sniggering “Eww, you eat gross things! Of course you’ll get gross diseases!” In the midst of this human tragedy, orientalist tropes about the Chinese are being sloppily repackaged as health concerns over the coronavirus, and served with a side of bat soup.

Yes, bat soup.

The coronavirus in question is found in bats, and thanks to the scientific expertise of social media, videos of Chinese people consuming anything from bat soup to baby mice and rats are popping up as “proof” of the disease’s cause.

However the coronavirus made the jump from bats to humans, the initial source of the outbreak seems to have originated from the Wuhan Seafood market, where a number of employees and a few shoppers were the first casualties to the infection. The 2019-nCoV is moving from person to person the same way the flu does, and what a person eats – or doesn’t eat – has no bearing on whether they contract the virus or not.

In an article titled, No, Coronavirus Was Not Caused by ‘Bat Soup’–But Here’s What Researchers Think May Be to Blame, Health.com writes:

“Coronaviruses in general are large family of viruses that can affect many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In rare cases, those viruses are also zoonotic, which means they can pass between humans and animals—as was the case with Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and severe acute respiratory system (SARS), two severe coronaviruses in people.

Initially, this novel coronavirus was believed to have started in a large seafood or wet market, suggesting animal-to-person spread, according to the CDC. But a large number of people diagnosed with the virus reportedly didn’t have exposure to the wet markets, indicating that person-to-person spread of the virus is also occurring. However, it’s still possible that the novel coronavirus began with an infected animal at the market—and then went on to person-to-person transmission once people were infected.”

Being uncomfortable with things you’ve never considered edible before isn’t necessarily a racist reaction. When my husband told me he ate a chocolate-covered cricket once, I hid my toothbrush for a week, but that’s not what’s happening right now. There is a deadly virus threatening a group of people, and the internet sees fit to make fun of them. Why? Because orientalism.

Orientalism is the “intellectual” framework through which Western societies create a clear and permanent line between Western superiority and “Oriental” inferiority. If orientalism were an Instagram filter, it would take any picture of any person, event, or thing, and distort its appearance to be “other,” and in some way inferior.

Orientalism is the “intellectual” framework through which Western societies create a clear and permanent line between Western superiority and “Oriental” inferiority. If orientalism were an Instagram filter, it would take any picture of any person, event, or thing, and distort its appearance to be “other,” and in some way inferior.Click To Tweet

The inferiorizing feature is step one, because in order to position yourself as a winner, the other guy has to be a loser in some way.

The otherizing is the step 2, and both steps are important because if you say that your little brother is a loser, in the end you’re still family and you’ve got his back. This would be inferiorizing, but not otherizing.

But if you say that other kind of guy is a loser, then you have no common ground. And when the other kind of guy is in trouble, you need only gloat and make nasty comments on Twitter. That’s inferiorizing with otherizing. Orientalism can be loosely translated as US vs THEM, normal versus weird, and local versus invasive foreign, or exotic.

The otherizing of orientalism is so subconsciously embedded in people that it even creates auditory illusions to maintain the “otherization” of the subject being viewed. As crazy as that sounds, everyone has their own experience. Mine for just last month played out as follows. A homeless man approached my window and said “Ma’am, do you have two dollars?”

I smiled and responded to him, “I have exactly two dollars!”

As I dug around for my wallet, he cocked his head and said, “Your accent. There’s something different about it. Something… foreign, exotic?”

“It’s Chicago,” I said, handing him two dollars.

He blinked a few times. “What’s Chicago?”

“My accent. It’s Chicagoan. English is my first language. My accent is from Chicago.”

He narrowed his eyes at me suspiciously, this gatekeeper of Chicagoness. “What part of Chicago?”

“North side, Lincolnwood area,” I said. “I grew up on Devon Ave.”

“Pulaski Park!” he beamed, pointing to himself. “I’m from Chicago too!”

We smiled at each other, basking for a moment in our mutual Chicagoness. Then I waved and drove away, adding his insistence of my  exotic“otherness” to the dozens of other peoples’ who have heard my perfectly flat, perfectly blandly midwestern accent and perceived something foreign. I call that one “hearing with your eyes.”

I have lost track of people who have tried to insist that I have an accent. One woman even went so far as to imply that I was lying about being a native English speaker, that I must have some other first language, because there’s “Something else in there, I can hear something foreign! But you’re very articulate though.”

(To form your own opinion on my exotic accent or the lack thereof, visit the MuslimMatters podcast here!)

Compliments like “You’re so articulate!” or “You’re so different!” give you partial credit for your exceptionality, while still discrediting every other member of your general race, religion, region, or hemisphere. The left-handed compliment has a long history, and follows a predictable pattern. Take, for example, this excerpt from The Talisman, a crusade-genre fiction published in 1825.

In this scene, our gallant, invading knight finds himself unable to defeat the enemy “Saracen,” aka – Muslim defender of the Holy Land. In grudging admiration, the knight concedes:

“I well thought…that your blinded race had their descent from the foul fiend, without whose aid you would never have been able to maintain this blessed land of Palestine against so many valiant soldiers of God. I speak not thus of thee in particular, Saracen, but generally of thy people and religion. Strange it is to me, however, not that you should have the descent from the Evil One, but that you should boast of it.”

Translation: “Your people and your religion are the spawn of satan, but not you. I speak not thus of thee in particular. You’re so cool for Muslim!” Spoiler alert: turns out it’s Salahuddin.

From the crusades to colonialism to America’s chronic invasion of Muslim lands, the misrepresentation of people from Over There is both a cause and effect of policy decisions. Orientalism creates the “bad guys” necessary to justify the “good guy” response by “proving” the bad guys to be so weird, inferior, and intrinsically bad that it becomes necessary to call for the good guy cavalry. That gives the good guys permission to take over the resources that the bad guys are too incompetent to manage anyway, and overthrow the governments they’re too stupid to run, and free the women that they’re too barbaric to appreciate.

One excellent reference on this is Dr. Jack Shaheen’s brilliant documentary Reel Bad Arabs, which summarizes a hundred years of Hollywood’s orientalist portrayal of “Arab Land,” a mythical, exotic, treacherous, incompetent, and seductive place, whose capital city is apparently Agrabah which, in 2015, a public policy poll found that 30% of GOP voters were in favor of bombing.

Another side effect of orientalism is the refusal to allow for individual accountability and the insistence on collective blame. “Western” men who harm and oppress women are rightly labeled as jerks and abusers who don’t represent Western morals, ethics, or ideals through their individual actions. Same for white racists, extremists, and criminals in general.

However, Muslims jerks who do the same are awarded representative status of the entire Muslim population (1.9 billion) and Islamic tradition (1441 years). The perception as all Muslim men based on only the worst of them seems ludicrous on paper, and such generalizations are no longer acceptable to make about race, but are still perfectly popular to make about minority religious groups.

Orientalism enables the belief that Muslims are terrible terrorists who are terrible to their women. If they say otherwise, it’s because their religion is terrible and lying about it is part of the religion too. They don’t deserve their own lands or resources, they’ll just use them for more terribleness. We should go in there and save them from themselves! And also, make lots of predictable, idiotic romance novels and movies in which a poor, beautiful Oriental Female is rescued through the power of Love and Freedom. Because just as violence is the natural state of the Muslim man, oppression is the natural state of the Muslim woman. Miskeena. Habibti.

Human beings can be horrible to each other. No ethnic, religious, or racial group is any exception. The problem arises when individual horribleness is elevated to collective attribution, and that collective attribution is used to justify collective punishment, as well as collective suffering.

When millions of Americans get sick from the flu, and tens of thousands die every year, why aren’t we making fun of the weird things that white people eat? Like Rocky Mountain Oysters (which are bull testicles) and sweetbreads (which are bits of an animal’s pancreas and thymus glands)?Click To Tweet

When millions of Americans get sick from the flu, and tens of thousands die every year, why aren’t we making fun of the weird things that white people eat? Like Rocky Mountain Oysters (which are bull testicles) and sweetbreads (which are bits of an animal’s pancreas and thymus glands)? What about snails, frog legs, crawfish, chocolate covered ants, and those tequila-inspired lollipops with an actual worm candied in the center?

The filtering effect of orientalism means that our weird foods – be it maghz masala and katakat– are quirky and fun, but their weird foods are disgusting and totally cause to celebrate infectious disease.

If the tables were turned and a deadly coronavirus originated from say, Saudi Arabia, would it be alright to ridicule Muslims for what they ate, or how they lived? What if that specific coronavirus actually originated in camels.

Yes, camels. The Islamophobic internet would have a field day with that one. Yes, we ride camels and prize camels and even eat camels – and they’re delicious I might add – but if a deadly virus originated from camels, found its way into humans in the Middle East, and from there caused death and destruction in other countries- would it be our fault? Would we deserve scorn? Would the suffering and death of our people be justified by how “gross” it is that we eat camels, even if only a few us actually do, and the rest of us prefer shawarma?

Pause for dramatic emphasis. Open the Lancet. Read.

“Human coronavirus is one of the main pathogens of respiratory infection. The two highly pathogenic viruses, SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, cause severe respiratory syndrome in humans and four other human coronaviruses induce mild upper respiratory disease. The major SARS-CoV outbreak involving 8422 patients occurred during 2002–03 and spread to 29 countries globally.

MERS-CoV emerged in Middle Eastern countries in 2012 but was imported into China.

The sequence of 2019-nCoV is relatively different from the six other coronavirus subtypes but can be classified as betacoronavirus. SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV can be transmitted directly to humans from civets and dromedary camels, respectively, and both viruses originate in bats, but the origin of 2019-nCoV needs further investigation.

The mortality of SARS-CoV has been reported as more than 10% and MERS-CoV at more than 35%.”

MERS-CoV, or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome –Coronavirus emerged in 2012, traveling from bats to camels to humans, killing 35% of the people who contracted it. It originated in Saudi Arabia and found its way across the continent all the way to China. So could the Chinese internet have been justified in ridiculing our deaths because we ate camels?

Could they legitimize posting “gross” videos of whole, pit-roasted camels? Could they say it was science, not racism, as they moved on to our other “gross” foods, like locusts and the dhab lizard?

Read more about the Sunnah of the Dhab Lizard.

Locusts and lizards have as much to do with MERS-CoV as mice and rats have to do with 2019 novel coronavirus, but doesn’t our grossness in general mean we deserve our fate?

No, it doesn’t. Making fun of what people eat isn’t science, epidemiology, or the sunnah. It’s racism, and it is hugely disappointing to see Muslims hurt others with to the same tropes that are used to hurt us.

No, it doesn’t. Making fun of what people eat isn’t science, epidemiology, or the sunnah. It’s racism, and it is hugely disappointing to see Muslims hurt others with to the same tropes that are used to hurt us.Click To Tweet

Orientalism is alive and kicking both of our communities in the teeth — Chinese and Muslim – but to further complicate the matter, there’s the ongoing genocide of the Uighur Muslims in China, and that’s rooted in orientalism too.

The Chinese government has imprisoned 3 million Muslims in concentration camps, a number equal to the entire Muslim population in America. It is not unexpected that some people wishfully assume the 2019 novel coronavirus epidemic to be the comeuppance that the Chinese government deserves for its cruelty, but that’s sad and wrong on many, many levels.

People cheering the coronavirus on fail to understand a few very big, very important things about the situation. I will list them, because the internet is no place for subtlety and these points have to stand out for those who would sail over the entire article so they can trash it in the comments. They are as follows:


  1. The entire population of China is no more responsible for the actions of its government than you are for yours. If you hate Donald Trump, his border wall, the separation of families, the Muslim Ban, cuts to medical benefits, and corruption in general but STILL live in America, then you understand that a great, frustrated, and powerless mass of citizens can have little to no effect on its government’s choices. Such is politics. Such is life. Such is China too.

    This guy is all our fault specifically. So I hope we all die of the flu.

  2. The coronavirus’s lethality is exponentially higher in people with poor health and weak immune systems. Like the flu, the coronavirus is overwhelmingly most lethal to children and elderly. The coronavirus is not targeted at, nor limited to the Chinese leadership for its crimes against humanity. Unfortunately, that is not how epidemics work.
  3.  The spread of Coronavirus – like all respiratory infections – is greatly accelerated through close living quarters as well as poor sanitation and hygiene. The 3 million Uighur Muslims interred by the Chinese government are imprisoned in distressingly cruel, cramped, and unhygienic conditions. Their close proximity as well as population density mean that if the virus makes it into the captive population, hundreds of thousands – if not millions of Muslims – would die. Don’t root for the coronavirus. It does not discriminate based on religion or race, even if you do.

And now we come full circle. When Muslims ridicule the Chinese for “being gross,” they are simply echoing the same racist, Orientalist talking points that labeled the Chinese – and later the Japanese – as the “Yellow Peril,” a filthy, faceless, monolithic mass deserving all of our scorn and none of the individual considerations that we insist on for ourselves.

Given the abuse that Muslims have been subject to by orientalist tropes, it should make us all the more aware of its dangerous cultural impact. We know what it’s like to be looked down on, laughed at, and blamed for our own suffering. We know what it feels like to have our foods gagged at, our accents mocked, and our cultural clothing turned into Halloween costumes.

Worse still, we know, very painfully and very currently, what it looks like for an entire people to be treated as a disease in and of themselves. China has declared Islam to be a contagious disease, an “ideological illness,” and on this very basis is it holding 3 million Muslims hostage. In an official statement loaded with situational irony, the Chinese Community Party officially stated,

“Members of the public who have been chosen for reeducation have been infected by an ideological illness. They have been infected with religious extremism and violent terrorist ideology, and therefore they must seek treatment from a hospital as an inpatient.

… There is always a risk that the illness will manifest itself at any moment, which would cause serious harm to the public. That is why they must be admitted to a reeducation hospital in time to treat and cleanse the virus from their brain and restore their normal mind … Being infected by religious extremism and violent terrorist ideology and not seeking treatment is like being infected by a disease that has not been treated in time, or like taking toxic drugs … There is no guarantee that it will not trigger and affect you in the future.” – source

The dangers of racism and orientalism are real, and the victims number the millions. Knowing how much damage orientalism causes in our community, we must commit to never, ever stooping to the same ideologies that are used to justify our own oppression. No matter how many bats people eat, or how evil their government can be, people are individual people. We stand on equal footing, equally deserving of respect, compassion, and acknowledgement of our humanity.



The Orientalist mindset that diminishes and distances us from each other strips us of our dignity, whether we are its victim, or its the perpetrator. Such racism is antithetical to the Prophetic compassion and mercy that Islam demands from us as Muslims. When Muslims celebrate the suffering of innocent people as some sort of epidemiological revenge for the suffering of innocent people, that’s not Islam.

That’s prejudice.

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