THOUSAND TINY SCREENS

“Shout out to all the Ahmads”: A poem beautifully reveals how it feels to be Muslim after the New York bombing

On Monday, Sept. 19, cellphones throughout New York buzzed with an “emergency alert,” a 21st century “Wanted” poster of sorts, with the name “Ahmad Khan Rahami” and the phrase “armed and dangerous.” Limited by outdated technology, the alert didn’t include much information, or even a photo of the suspect.

According to New York mayor Bill de Blasio, the alert helped capture the real Rahami, who was charged today with a bombing in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood that left 29 people injured and a twin explosion in New Jersey. But as several pointed out, the alert’s vagueness also invited suspicion toward anyone who looked like a likely “Ahmad Khan Rahami.”

Hanif Yazdi, who is a graduate student in city planning at the Pratt Institute and works for the city, captured what it meant to be a New Yorker with a Muslim-sounding name in a poem posted on his personal Facebook page. The poem has been shared more than 2,000 times, by Wednesday morning:

Shout out to all the Ahmads
and the Khans and
Rahamis today,
in the cabs and the foodcarts,
in the masjids and the clubs,
in the doctors offices and waiting rooms,
and all the little places in between,
in our most beautiful of cities,

trying to stand tall,
trying to stand clear of the closing doors,
getting alerts in the morning,
looking down at their phones
to see their own beautiful names
on a thousand tiny screens,
and slouching, perhaps
a little further in their seats.

Yazdi told Quartz in a Facebook message that he did not anticipate the poem’s popularity, but that he felt “encouraged by the overwhelming and positive reception.”

“I wrote this poem as a personal act of positive affirmation for members of my family and community who bear names that are often associated with negative portrayals in mass media and public life. I want Muslim New Yorkers to continue to be proud of our city, our communities and our names,” Yazdi wrote.

“It is my hope that all who read this piece remember the humanity and beauty in our diverse communities, even during difficult times.”

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