KARACHI, Pakistan — I worry about Muslims. Islam teaches me to care about all human beings, and animals too, but life is short and I can’t even find enough time to worry about all the Muslims.
I don’t worry too much about the Muslims who face racial slurs in Europe and America, the ones who are suspected of harboring murderous thoughts at their workplaces or those who are picked out of immigration queues and asked awkward questions about their luggage and their ancestors. I tell myself that at the end of their humiliating journeys they can expect privileges like running water, electricity and tainted promises of equality.
I do worry about the Muslims who face extinction at the hands of other Muslims in their own homelands, usually in places where they are in a huge majority. My friend Sabeen Mahmud was murdered earlier this year, probably for not being a good enough Muslim, and it happened in this country, a country so Muslim that you can live your entire life here without shaking hands with a non-Muslim.
But mostly I worry about my kind of Muslims, those who are expected to explain to the world what real Islam is like. We so-called moderate Muslims are urged to take control of the narrative and wrest it away from the radicals — as though we were MFA students in a creative writing class struggling with midterm submissions, rather than 1.6 billion people of maddening diversity.
I worry about the pundits who end up on TV within hours of an atrocity and are required to condemn or defend and explain on our behalf. I worry about those nice folk who are supposed to remind the world that Islam is a religion of peace.
Yes, the word Islam does mean peace. The dictionary says so. But it takes gumption to wave a dictionary in front of someone who has lost a daughter, a son or a partner, and say: “Here, I have something for you. Look. ‘Islam.’ It means peace.”