- Posted September 17, 2015 by
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We Moved Overseas so Our Boys Wouldn’t End up Like Ahmed
Since the arrest, the 14-year-old has been invited to the White House and showered with other invitations and support from business leaders and celebrities.
"I think it's great that people have reached out how they have, but I don't think it means the situation will change for other kids like him," the iReporter says. "For every comment of goodwill, there seems to be just as many saying 'he deserved' it. Islamophobia is something we faced daily and isn't going away; if anything it's gotten worse and this incident reinforced that."
- dsashin, CNN iReport producer
Before our son was born my husband and I sat and talked about names. We stressed to his family that we needed to come up with a name that reflected his Arabic/Muslim heritage (and meet the government requirements in Morocco) but wasn’t so strange it would be a problem in the US. Names like Mohammed, Osama, Hussein, and Ahmed were immediately struck down. We spent weeks trying to find a name that would “be ok.”
When we were at the airport on a trip back from the US my boys were playing like all boys do, when one said “what would happen if there was a bomb on the plane?” It’s an innocuous question, and I’m sure they picked up on it from hearing the news and watching TV. My husband and I looked at each other with a bit of panic and quickly tried to change the subject. We knew people would get nervous if they saw us and heard what my kids were talking about this. The boys wouldn’t give up and I could see our youngest was actually very concerned about the possibility so I did my best to explain that it wouldn’t happen and if it did there are people trained to help us. Then I changed the subject and explained to them talking about bombs or guns at the airport isn’t a good idea.
I am getting ready for a trip to eastern Europe over the weekend and due to the recent backlash refugees are facing I began to worry what issues I would face. I asked the host if I should remove my hijab for safety reasons. She said that it probably would be better that way, that they have a saying, “don’t pull the devils’ tail.” My friend who is going on the trip with me said, “it makes me really sad that this is something you even have to think about.” But it is.
Our life is constantly a balance of being proud of our faith and who we are and realizing the suspicion and fear outsiders have of us. The recent incident in Texas with teenager Ahmed Mohammed reminded me of what we left behind. In 2013 we moved to Morocco with our boys who were then 6 and 8. Sure, we wanted them to learn about their fathers’ home country and learn to speak the language but we also were acutely aware of the stigma they would begin to face as they got older in a small Midwestern city.
In Morocco they are surrounded by people who see them for who they are and not the faith they have. We don’t have to worry that someone will say something hurtful because of their religion or call the police because they’re somehow threatening. They are free to live their lives as children, and not be labeled as “Muslim children” who are supposed to act and behave different from others. They’re not suspicious or scary here, they’re just kids. People sometimes ask why we moved to Morocco and in many cases I don’t have the words to tell them I didn’t want my children to grow up thinking there was something wrong with them. Because there’s not!
I grew up as a stereotypical, upper middle class, white girl in the Midwest. I didn’t have many friends who were other races, not because I didn’t want to, but because there were none. When I became a Muslim I became a minority overnight. I know what America is capable of, I was in that majority who never had to ask themselves basic questions about appearance and behavior because no one else would question it either.
I never thought I would have to worry my own children wouldn’t be given the same treatment. But I do.
Amanda Mouttaki is an American expat living in Marrakech with her husband and two boys. She writes the blog MarocMama.com. Amanda has a BA in International Politics and an MBA.