I have had an online “presence” for almost 5 or 6 years now and it never really occurred to me until recently that people actually “care” what I write or say. It all started several years after I converted/reverted to Islam. I used to engage others in various message boards that catered to African American or Veteran audiences. Initially, I was just a “lurker” who would read what others wrote and rarely created topics of my own. It wasn’t until members started making comments about Islam that I would respond. That’s how it went for several years, some days more intense than others debating, going back and forth, etc. about religion and inevitably politics. Once I noticed that I actually enjoyed giving my opinion I decided to start a blog because I got tired of having 18+ page debates that would eventually get lost on messageboards. So I began writing this blog, originally titled “An American Muslim” as my intention was as it has always been to give the opinion of a random Muslim in America.
I never sought out to gain an audience, promote my views, etc. I just wanted to catalog my ideas. Of course, I knew that inevitably people would read what I wrote, and I always hoped that if my words could be of any use that they would convey the message that Muslims are not the boogey man, patiently waiting to destroy the “West”, but just like other Americans who share many of the same desires. I always felt that adherence to my faith should never be used as a wedge by others to ostracize or question my “loyalty” to the nation in which I have been born and raised. As such, I meandered here and there, posting random commentary about my opinions. This went on for quite some time until Dr. Blogstein read something I wrote concerning the TV Show “24” and it’s portrayal of Muslims. I happen to be a huge fan of “24” and thought that some Muslims were going over the top with their “outrage” over the show. The good Dr. suggested that I start my own radio show that was similar to my blog, and the rest is history…
Even then I never took myself and my opinions too seriously as evidenced by my shows if listen to the archive, although we had some great guests and good discussion topics, I never sought out to make it a professional production, just like this blog with it’s bad grammar, spelling, and usage of street vernacular. I have always wanted to convey the message that Robert Salaam is just a regular guy. I’m not a scholar, expert, or unique in anyway. I just happen to have an opinion that I don’t mind sharing.
I mean I do have a day job where I bust my butt daily to take care of my responsibilities and duties. I have no aspirations for being the “go to” guy, lecturer, etc. etc. regardless of what some may allege. Everything, was going pretty good up until the Ft. Hood massacre when I just happened to be one of the first Muslim bloggers to write about the topic and created a media frenzy that left me exhausted and re-evaluating myself after the process.
There have always been random “Robert Salaam” said excerpts, quotes, etc. floating over the net, and I never did mind, maybe I was just too brazen in hindsight. I mean, my whole Marine mentality mixed in with my New Jersey street roots, and a side of Black Nationalism, never did help I now realize, as it’s this cocky mentality that often gets me going and saying things that maybe I shouldn’t say from time to time, and I never really did care, because I just felt like others should “get over it, I’m nobody”. Well, that hasn’t worked out so well, I’m noticing.
I guess my biggest problem is I read what the critics write. Maybe I shouldn’t, but it’s almost like looking at the car accident on the side of the road, you know you should keep driving, but morbid curiosity causes you to look anyway. This will ultimately be my downfall. After the whole “Ft Hood” thing and the resulting commentary from both Muslims and Non-Muslims alike, I began to really take myself and my words a little more serious.
I had so many interviews after the tragedy and having seen how the media operates behind the scenes has truly given me much to reflect. I mean I gave each reporter a minimum of 30-45 minute interviews, only to see a sentence or two quoted in some articles. It was these articles that often drew the most criticism. I find it amazing even now how 2 lines out of a 30 minute conversation can create any angle or stir any emotion one wants to. I expected non-Muslim blowback don’t get me wrong. To some I will always be a traitor who turned his back on Christianity and adopted the “enemy’s” religion, etc. etc. etc. I never actually anticipated the Muslim blowback though. I mean I know that my views on some issues are considered “controversial” to some, I would be a fool to not know that, but I accepted that as part of the territory. There is and will always be a contingent of Muslims who believe that unless you act, dress, and look like an Arab from the 7th century, your somehow unauthentic, false, or in the case recent accusations a Kufr. This contingent is always hostile to those who convert/revert to Islam and want to maintain their cultural/national identity in some form or another. However, in the past when these comments would come they always came in a respectful tone. Brothers and Sisters would approach me from the perspective as one genuinely concerned about my practice and beliefs and sought to “educate” me. Often we would respectfully disagree, but at other times, we did not.
But this latest rash of criticism has just been plain out ugly as some of these Muslims are sounding more and more like my non-Muslim right-wing critics, hurling insults and back-biting like nobody’s business. I expect that type of behavior from non-Muslims, but never from Muslims.
It’s because of these comments I have become more reflective and more aware. I mean if my words can cause such behavior by those who call themselves Muslim, what the next evolution in their behavior? I’m beginning to wonder if maybe I have been a little too open and too public. At what point do I fear for the lives of my family by fellow Muslims? I always knew that my brazen actions like my “Muslim” license plates would risk somethings from non-Muslims, but I guess I have been too naive when it comes to Muslims.
I never actually thought what I have been saying or writing was all that serious. I mean, I’m not one of those critics of Islam who say ridiculous things like the Qur’an should be re-written (God forbid) or that there is something inherently wrong with Islam, I have never even called others interpretations and criticisms of my beliefs wrong, I have always just respectfully disagreed. I guess some just don’t like to be disagreed with at all, who knows.
Eitherway, the main point of this rant is that all of this “controversy” based primarily on my words written or spoken, has exposed a kink in my armor and revealed that which I didn’t know exist until now. I do care what Muslims think and how some perceive me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not loosing any sleep over this, but it does make one think.