How Am I The Terrorist?

Lovely Ummi,


I remember the hustle and bustle

Of the crowds, of the people--

Bodies pressed against each other,

Like the Baklava, you made

on days I came from school.

The plane had just landed,

And my hand in yours,

Your purdah covering

Your face, but your eyes,

The fire in them

Could not be contained by cloth.


I remember your accent,

How you always said “Alympics”

Instead of “Olympics”

And you were right:

All the world should come together, Ummi.


Ummi, do you remember the day

I came back from school?

When the boys in my class

Told me to go back to

My terrorist family.

How was I the terrorist, Ummi,

When I was the one

Who was terrified?


They told me to go back


The goddess of rainbows?

Did they want me dead?

Ummi, I am from India,

Not ISIS, you told me that, no?


Ummi, you told me that day,

In the airport,

“Allahku, ariyam njamal thivravadikal

Allennu. Allaku, ariyam nammal

Indiayil ninnu vannavarannenu.”


Why does it matter where

We come from, Ummi?

Does Allah not love us all?


So, why did children quail,

When I said I was of Islam?

Why did that man on the television,

(Was he the president?)

Say that we’re radical terrorists?


Why do they call us terrorists, Ummi?

Ummi, I am the one who is terrified.


Ummi, why did you bring me here?

You said it was the land of the free,

But I am held prisoner to this fear,

I am held captive by this judgment.


And this is not just my voice,

It is ours.

The voice of the Dreamers,

The voice of the Women,

The voice of the African-Americans,

The voice of everyone who

Fights for the chimerical equality

To become a reality.


Ummi, I remember the fire in your eyes.

From the embers of your fire,

I will rise in a conflagration of love

That will consume this world,

That someday will be mine.


With hope,

Your daughter




Ummi, you told me that day,

In the airport,

“Allah knows that we are not

Terrorists. Allah knows that

We come from India.”

 The word 'Ummi' is the word for mother among the Muslim community in India.

This poem is about: 
My community
My country
Poetry Terms Demonstrated: 


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