“I didn’t want to be the weird muslim kid, I wanted to be the weird punk kid.” Donna Ramone on Islamophobia in punk.
Graffiti on a wall in Manama, Bahrain. (Photo by Donna Ramone)
“I guess. I’m an Arab. It happens. So?”
“Nothing… it’s, just that I thought you were Mexican is all.”
And suddenly it all goes one of two ways: Things get crazy awkward while they have to deal with new feelings, or it becomes my one and only defining characteristic. I try not to be offended and try and see things from their perceptive, but it’s really hard sometimes since this has always felt like something I felt alone. I mean, when was the last time you ran into a muslim punk girl? Exactly.
I heard the Ramones when I was 12 and THAT became my religion. I didn’t want to be the weird muslim kid, I wanted to be the weird punk kid. So I was, and didn’t really offer up who I was culturally. Then suddenly I started to encounter weird moments I wasn’t ready for. In high school people would learn I was an arab muslim and try and joke it off with “Don’t blow up my house!” Haha…wait. No, fuck you. That’s not funny. In college, in our post 9/11 America, I ran into people saying a lot of awful things at shows. One guy tried to tell me how he didn’t like arabs since he had friends out there in the military dying, and somehow this was the entire ethnicity’s fault. I let him know I also had friends in the military… on both sides. Another guy, not realizing I was from the Middle East, in a political discussion told me, and I quote, “You have to admit that the world would be a better place if we just paved over the Middle East.” But then Fat Mike came out with the “Not My President” campaign and things 180-ed.
Word gets around and suddenly everyone is extra super saccharine nice to me. My boyfriend and I started a punk venue in Chino, California (that was recently shut down by the city) so I’m getting my ass kissed from every angle. “Yeah, that girl right there owns this place- AND SHE’S MUSLIM.” I got this insane backwards punk cred. And I can’t decide what’s worse: people being truthful but awful, or people being fake and really nice.
I am muslim. I do speak arabic. I don’t wear a hijab. I do drink alcohol. I don’t eat pork. I fast during Ramadan. I don’t pray five times a day.Yeah, confusing I know. Islam is a religion that seems so strict and marginalized, doesn’t it? Even I didn’t believe there was such a thing as a “moderate muslim” and renounced the religion of my birth. But now, thanks in part to the book The Taqwacores by Michael Muhammed Knight, I’m able to come to terms with who I am- and I fucking love who I am. I love my culture, it’s beautiful and amazing and everyone should see that about it.
And if some assholes can’t see that and want to be islamophobes, I exist to prove everything they believe about Islam wrong.
Donna Ramone ran The Warehouse at 12th & G in Chino, CA until the recent clampdown. She likes the Ramones in an unhealthy way. Find her online at facebook.com/TheWarehouseAt12thandG and donnaramone.tumblr.com.
You might also want to check out stfuislamophobes.tumblr.com.
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