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My Story, Part 1

“You should know more about Islam.” I was at an anti-war event organized by my friend D., and was being admonished by a smug, white, almost-retired Marxist professor, the kind that’s all too common in the Rogers Park neighborhood, an area known for its vaunted progressive politics. He’d just been introduced to me, with my noticeably Muslim first name, and had promptly asked me to clarify some point about Islam. I’d told him I didn’t know, a response which drew the aforementioned words from him. I wanted to sear Mr. Marxist (henceforth to be known as Mr. M.) with angry barbs. D. and I both started to tell Mr. M that I’m an atheist, and I also wanted to turn the tables on him: How dare you, I wanted to say, assume anything about me, based on the color of my skin and my name? And even if I were Muslim, why should I know more about Islam? You’re white, so you must be, oh, a Protestant? But I didn’t, mostly because he was quite old, approaching 80 perhaps, and I was afraid of giving him a heart attack. And, I’ll admit, because I didn’t want to “make trouble” in what was partly a social setting.

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