“Do not think of those who have died as Dead; rather, they are Alive and with their Lord” by Isra Cheema

Do not think of those who have died as Dead; rather, they are Alive and with their Lord

A fellow classmate tells you that Trump really isn’t so bad, that he will definitely do a better job than that two-faced lying bitch who ran against him. You tell him that calling a woman a sexist slur is beneath him. He mutters the same different slur under his breath and huffs off. Paki bitch. Paki bitch. Paki bitch.

Waqar Hasan. Zohreh Assemi. Nazma Khanam.

Sitting in the public library studying, you stand and ask the man near you if he would keep an eye on your things while you head to the restroom. He looks up from his newspaper and asks if your bag will blow up while you’re gone. You laugh uncomfortably and tell him, no, of course not. He says nothing and resumes reading, ignoring you. You pick up your things and leave the library, carrying with you more than you brought in.

Hassan Alawsi. Abdisamad Sheikh-Hussein. Mohammed al-Majed.

A stranger in the bathroom says you would look so beautiful without that thing on your head. Look at your pretty hair! Why would you want to keep that all covered up? Do your dad and brothers make you wear it? You chuckle unintentionally. The stranger flies into a rage all of asudden. Fine then, stay oppressed. I’m just trying to help you, she retorts. You tell her you don’t need her help, so she flings obscenities and storms out angrily. You walk back to class, she never leaves you.

Kamal Nayfeh. Mohammed Saleem. Nabra Hassanen.

A man in a bright red truck speeds towards you as you walk to class. You ignore him. He pulls up next to you and rolls down the window. You ignore the dread gathering in the pit of your stomach. Dirty fucking terrorist, he spits out. You say nothing and keep walking. Towel head, he yells. He gives you the finger and drives off, leaving you in a cloud of exhaust. You let the tears fall when he is out of sight.

Deah Shaddy Barakat. Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha. Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha.

Another friend asks you why you’re the only friendly Muslim she’s ever met. Why aren’t they all as nice as you? They always seem so angry and mean, she laughs. Must be the beards. You askher what she means and she shrugs. I just think if Muslims were friendlier, then people wouldn’t be so scared of them. Rage fills your body like a blazing fire. What did you just say?

They are you. You are them. Say their names.

Isra Cheema (she/her) is a Muslim American Pakistani poet from the heart of Oklahoma. She is currently an MFA in Creative Writing candidate at Texas State University. She has work forthcoming or published in The Bosphorus Review, Jaded Ibis Press, Ghost City Press, Thin Air Magazine, and elsewhere. She is the Poetry Editor for Porter House Review and can be found on Twitter and Instagram @tiramisruu.