Images of beheadings and men in orange jumpsuits
Haunt me when I wake
The black hooded vigilantes in the desert
Push my heart into the bellows of despair

I imagine my male cousins under the hoods
Shazan, Farhan and Arshad
Who came here in the eighties
With taxi driver and gas station fathers
And mothers who could barely read

Attending Sunday school in concrete floor basements
With imams who came from rural villages in India
Speaking of the butchering of Muslims
Hung from ropes, raped in public, electrocuted in rain-soaked alleys
My male cousins listened and watched

Lost in their search for identity
Taking the wrong turn away
From what Prophet Muhammed imagined
For the Muslim ummah in the deserts of Arabia

The sadness of what we once were
Of what we could become as a whole

Oh the horror! The horror!


Samina Hadi-Tabassum is a professor at Northern Illinois University. She has published poems in East Lit Journal, Journal of Postcolonial Literature, Papercuts, The Waggle, Indian Review and These Fragile Lilacs.

Featured Image: A Syrian policeman patrolling the ancient oasis city of Palmyra. ISIL, also known as “Daesh the Filthy,” reportedly blew these ruins up earlier this year.  JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images

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2 Responses

  1. Greg Palmerino


    What a beautiful and powerful poem. Thanks for sharing.


  2. Damian Robin

    Thank you for this ‘insider’ view bringing in a wider aspect of Islam – ‘rural villages in India’ as well as Arabia – tho’ Arabia may have further reach in Islam than only Saudi Arabia, I don’t know – and ‘Sunday school in concrete floor basements’ presumably in the US tho’ I’ve seen this (thru real windows and the TV window) in the UK.

    You touch on the widespread brutalisation of muslims across the world and the looking for roots or identity in a migrant world that I have come across in the past with young black people in the UK. Tho they are born here and are British, they didn’t feel rooted here. I presume this is similar for British muslims – especially with the harsher attitudes after the attacks in US and Europe on behalf of self-styled Islamic State.

    I’d like to draw attention to the picture caption: it uses ‘The Islamic State’. We know this is a name taken by extremists and it can be confused as something belonging to the wider Islamic belief. I would therefore suggest it’s used in inverted commas or has ‘so-called’ in front of it or be substituted by ISIS or ISIL, or, Daesh (sounding like ‘die ash’). –The article below says Daesh is “essentially an Arabic acronym formed from the initial letters of the group’s previous name in Arabic – “al-Dawla al-Islamiya fil Iraq wa al-Sham”. Although it does not mean anything as a word in Arabic, it sounds unpleasant and the group’s supporters object to its use. — Daesh also sounds similar to an Arabic verb that means to tread underfoot, trample down, or crush something.


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