Dear Rahaf (and #SaveRahaf supporters) — A few things about your new home
My name is Hussan (حسان). Like you, I don’t believe in God. Like you, I come from a Muslim country. Like you, I know what it feels like to escape a vicious, abusive father. But I’m a man, so my life is easier. I only sat beside my sisters and female cousins as they fought against arranged marriages they did not want, I could only hold their hands after they were beaten. When I first landed in North America, just a little younger than you, I was ecstatic. Finally, I would be free. I no longer think that, and I wanted to write to you because no one told me the truth about this place.
In just over two weeks from now, as you will be settling in, when the snow will still be interesting — we will be marking the two year anniversary of the Quebec Mosque Massacre in Canada. On January 29, 2017, a white young man walked into a mosque and started shooting. Children were running around, men young and old were sitting or praying. He shot at them all. Six people died that day. His reason? Because he was worried about too many Muslim refugees — people like you, people like me.
Well, not like us exactly. Because we look like the good kind of Muslims. The ones that might drink, and not criticize the west too much. The ones that can be rescued from Islam. And that’s why some of the same people that are on Twitter complaining about Muslim refugees, and immigrants jumping the queue were the ones calling for you to be given sanctuary immediately. They are the ones who have become your proud Canadian family now, and they have their own specific agenda.
I know this must be hard to read. You have to believe in the goodness of people right now. I do too. I believe people are inherently good. But as the days pass, you must know that your story captured the attention it did because it in part confirmed something people already believed — that Muslim women need saving from Muslim men. “Saving” Muslim women sometimes looks like giving one person refugee status, and other times looks like bombing entire countries. The desire to rescue Muslim women, has never been far from the desire to kill Muslims, and to profit from these wars.
None of this is your responsibility, or that of your supporters. If it weren’t for these things, you may still be in a hotel in Thailand, or on your way back to Saudi Arabia. But you are here. And that’s good. They are using your story, you are using them to find safety. That’s OK. But now that you are here, the difficult question is, what do you do next? That’s hard for anyone, but it will be especially hard for you.
Maybe you know this already, but Canada is the middle of a diplomatic spat with Saudi Arabia. Canada criticized the Saudi human rights record, and Saudi Arabia pulled out international students from Canada, selling off some Canadian assets. But that’s all talk. Because Canada sells weapons to Saudi Arabia, which are being used to create the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Just three weeks ago, many people in Canada were trying to block the shipment of these weapons to Saudi Arabia, and were forcefully removed. Granting you citizenship makes Canada’s Prime Minister Trudeau look like he’s standing up to Saudi Arabia, it costs Canada very little, and they can continue to profit from Saudi wars. And it’s not even this Prime Minister, the contract was signed by the previous Conservative government — who is supported by some of the same people who are around you now.
That’s not the only reason you were just granted refugee status so quickly. Over the last two weeks, there have been nearly 100 protests in the country against militarized police attack on Indigenous Wet’suewet’en people in British Columbia (that’s about a 9 hour flight from Toronto where you landed, you should go one day if you can). Everytime Trudeau has appeared in public, he has been challenged for what’s happening there. Trudeau desperately needs to turn attention away from Canada’s ongoing colonization of Indigenous people — and giving you refugee status, to “save” you right now, helps him do that.
You have a choice now — you can learn about Canada’s immigration system where people are jailed indefinitely without trial or charges, where Muslim men face secret trials, and where tens of thousands of people have to wait years to get papers that you got in a matter of weeks. You can learn about Islamophobia here — and as you do, you can learn how it doesn’t matter what we believe, to them we are just Muslims. You can learn, that the people who brought you here don’t even have the right to be here — that Canada is all Indigenous land.
What you decide to do after you learn all these truths is up to you. I won’t tell you what to do with this knowledge. I trust you will make the right decisions. I hate to be the one to tell you this, but you aren’t free yet. But so many of us are fighting for all of us to be free — and one day, one day soon, we will get there. Because just as on one side there are the government politicians using your story for their own gains, on the other there are people resisting for freedom across these lands. Just as there are women, feminists, even Muslim feminists fighting for all our collective liberation. Get some rest, settle in, read and catch up, and if you ever need support, reach out. We are all here for you.
With respect and in solidarity,