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Muslim Slam Poet: 'If You Need Me To Prove My Humanity, I'm Not The One Who's Not Human'

06/07/2017 2:15 AM IST

With Islamophobia on the rise in the United States and across Europe, many Muslims and allies have had to go to great lengths to defend the faith.

Often this comes in the form of efforts to separate Islam from extremist fringes of the religion and showcase members of the faith who aren’t just admirable, but superlatively so

Or, as 22-year-old slam poet Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan recently argued, Islamophobia has created the necessity of “humanizing” Muslims for those who see it as frightening or foreign. And that, she said, is a problem.

Manzoor-Khan performed her piece, “This Is Not A Humanizing Poem,” at a poetry slam competition in June organized by London-based charity Roundhouse.

In it the British-born Pakistani poet warned: “This will not be a ‘Muslims are like us’ poem.”

Manzoor-Khan, who also runs a blog site on the intersections of religion, politics and gender called “The Brown Hijabi,” argued that Muslim lives shouldn’t be valued only for being relatable or recognizable.

“I refuse to be respectable,” she said.

The media tends to combat bias by highlighting extraordinary Muslims ― world-class athletes, television stars, good samaritans and inspiring activists. But Manzoor-Khan pointed out that Muslims are often dehumanized by the very efforts supposedly intended to prove their humanity. 

“Instead, love us when we are lazy. Love us when we are poor,” she challenged. “Love us high as kites, unemployed, joy riding, time wasting, failing at school, love us filthy. Without the right color passports, without the right sounding English.”

Plenty of attempts have been made to otherize Muslims ― from President Donald Trump’s “Islam hates us” comment to anti-Sharia marches claiming inherent misogyny in the faith. But efforts to combat Islamophobia, Manzoor-Khan argued, shouldn’t be equally myopic.

“If you need me to prove my humanity,” she said, “I’m not the one who’s not human.”

Watch her powerful performance above.

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