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Everyone has their own opinion.
But it is not okay
To say to me that I am wrong.
That I am bad. That I have no place here.
Because I just said that I am Muslim.
We are not terrorists. Not the
Awful people the media depicts us as.

Every group has people who don’t follow the rules.
The Islam I know teaches me:
Don’t harm a hair on their head.
No matter who they are.
No matter what they say.
But it is not okay to tell me that I have to say sorry.
Sorry, sorry, sorry.
Saying sorry for all those rule breakers that gave you a false image.
Tear that image away.
Underneath you will see something beautiful.
You won’t have to think twice about it.
The word I grew up with.
I have a huge, loving community
Backing me up, so I help them.
We weave together like a thousand colored-wool strings.
Warm and comforting.
We make a blanket that is love.
Is comforting, is cozy, is us.
I feel strong. I feel accepted.
Drumbeats. Singing along melodiously.
Even little Amel, her hair gone wild long ago, and baby Nia,
Big innocent eyes,
Warbling along too.
Even those teenagers, yes, those over there, who have forgotten their community,
Their tradition,
Hum along quietly.
The memories of their childhood
Coming back. The fading pictures regain true color.

Portrays it differently.
Like sharp rocks slicing deep into our skin.
But you say it like
Soft, this word, not rough like sandpaper.
That ‘S’
Like a thousand silken pillows
Awaiting you as soon as you finish a
Warm, fragrant bath.
Not deep “muuu,”
Subtle “mu.”
Pull out that Z; it hurts.
Take a look at me
And you’ll say,
“You’re white.”
Part-way, but also Algerian. North African and proud of it.

We become more and more strained under tension,
But one question remains:
Why hurt someone else’s community?
Why tear someone else’s blanket?
But we don’t let that affect us.
We go on singing
And sharing
And loving
And caring.
We are just like you.
Now you know.
So don’t hurt my stride,
Don’t take away my happy vibe.
Just know,
Your blanket is there too,
Or maybe you’ll create one.

Leila Lakhal
Leila Lakhal, 12
Seattle, WA