Our Name by Zaina Qureshi

I remember looking at the clothes through the windows of the stores imagining what they would look like on me when my dad’s phone began to ring. It was weird because he usually turns it off on vacations. He answered and I watched as his face dropped and immediately look up at the mall’s TV almost like he was looking for something. I ignored him and continued with my sister when we noticed that both of my parents were stuck on the TV.  “A Moment of crisis near finish line “ were the words I saw as I looked up at the screen. A bomb had just been set off back in Boston. 

I was a religious kid, always reciting surahs and praying namaz with my grandmother. I was proud to be Muslim, I never thought of it as something I had to hide. I was proud of my name’s connection to my faith and how just by reading, Qureshi, you knew I was Muslim. Until two days later, after the bomb went off and my family and I flew home. As I walked through LAX I remember feeling tense, the nerves of the crowd grew as we watched the increase in security. I stepped up to the metal detector and walked through as instructed when it beeped. My dad and I had been pulled aside by TSA, it seemed to be a routine check until they began searching our belongings and repeating my last name, Qureshi. 

We were brought to a separate room and patted down, the agent pulled my braids out and began to chemically search my hair, hands, and face. I kept quiet as they rolled the scanner across my palms.

I sat there alone watching my dad through the small window of the door wondering why they were so suspicious of me. Did I do something wrong? Sometime later they released us and we returned to Boston. At the moment I didn’t understand what had happened, my parents kept their conversations quiet, until the following Thursday. My dad worked in Boston and the city was on high alert to find the bomber. He came back from work sat my sister and me down, and began to tell us of his day. He told us of the racism he experienced because of not only our faith but because of our last name, Qureshi. He explained that we should never say “bismillah” or other words of worship outside of our own heads. He told us the story of his life after 9/11 and the changes the country went through.  It was around this same time when we got the news my uncle had gone missing. A week after the bombing. 

Salim Khan, although we weren’t related by blood he was a brother to my dad. His disappearance hit him hard. He searched his house and local hospitals all with no result. Until 3 months later my dad was told that he was in police custody. The same police that had denied my dad from filing a missing person report had him in their custody. “His name was on a list “ that’s the only information my dad got from the authorities. Khan. My uncle spent 4 years in prison for nothing more than a name, Khan. They painted him as a danger to the public, a terrorist. All because of his name. My name and its connection to my faith just like my uncles went from being something I was proud of to something that burdened me. The thing that could connect me to acts of terror. Qureshi, Khan, Ahmed, the two things they all shared were their connection to Islam and their spot on an FBI watch list.

 Just one more reason that sets us apart from the majority. Our faith, our appearance, and now our name.

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