Welcome to the thoughts, rants and passions of a young Muslim woman seeking soulful enlightenment in cyberspace.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Borderline Fears

Crossing the Canada-US border should be a breeze, especially for someone who’s used to frequent road trips to the United States. And yet when I get close to the American border, my heart beats just a little faster. Truth is, I’m terrified of borders.

Maybe it’s just a comfort thing. I’m in my zone, I’m in my border. After all, that sick feeling in my stomach is nowhere to be found upon return to Canada. But I think it’s more than that. There’s a sense of arbitrariness associated with America. A feeling of not knowing what will happen, what “they” will do. I’ve often wondered what would dissipate the tension. Joke with the official, perhaps? But what would I say? Yeah, I’ve got a couple of M16s in the trunk under the box of shawarmas? Somehow I don’t think that would crack them up. They look like they haven’t smiled in years.

I’ve heard stories galore. A family of ten – just heading to a wedding, no plans to blow up anything on the way – held at the border for eight hours. A close friend of mine – still traumatized as she tells me this – fingerprinted and interrogated for hours, simply because she was born in the Middle East. Last time we trekked down to NY, the official at the border asked us some questions and something must’ve made him squirm because we were held for half an hour before they asked us questions they’d already asked us before and finally sent us on our way. I guess I should be glad we weren’t fingerprinted.

I do want there to be security. On our way back into Canada, the official squished into that teeny-weeny booth (I wonder what they do to claustrophobic officials?) didn’t even bother to look at our documents. Imagine that! She asked where we’d been, how long we’d stayed, then waved us right through. I wanted to yell at her: How dare she be so lax with the security of our nation? I mean, we could’ve been carrying fugitives with us for all she knew.

But this fear of the US border is similar to my fear of making the electronic detectors go off at the library. Call it paranoia, but it stems from an instinctive human need to be treated with dignity and respect, to not be singled out or humiliated. More than that, my agitation is linked to the fact that I’m a Muslim and I look it. There’s already so much negativity surrounding my faith. I don’t want to be responsible for more. The end result is that I’m panic-stricken at the sight of electronic detectors at shopping malls and airports. So if you ever see a lone Muslim girl, trembling and white-faced as she goes through those metal detectors, know that she’s not guilty. She’s just plain scared. And calling in the RCMP will freak her out even more.


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