Being Muslim Is Not a Crime
by Ferial Pearson
Peace be upon you
Bismillah ar rahman ar rahim
I would like to begin by paying my respects to the indigenous people whose land we are on right now. In particular, I pay my respects to the Umoⁿhoⁿ people for whom this city is named.
Unless you belong to the indigenous tribes of this land, you are an immigrant, as well. Chances are, some of your ancestors were refugees too.
My name is Ferial Pearson and I am a Muslim immigrant from Kenya. I came to this country nineteen years ago on a student visa to fulfill my dream of becoming a teacher, and I have dedicated my career to educating children in Nebraska. Most of my students have been immigrants, children of immigrants, refugees, and asylees. They have been the hardest and smartest workers I have ever met. They have gone on to do great things and are creating positive change in communities around the world, including here in these United States of America.
I am here to tell you that being Muslim is not a crime. Being a refugee is not a crime.
I would like to lift up the voice of Warsan Shire, a British-Somali poet, who wrote this poem entitled Home. I hope you listen with an open heart as she is not here to speak these words herself today.
Home, by Warsan Shire
no one leaves home
unless home is the mouth of a shark.
you only run for the border when you see the whole city running as well.
your neighbours running faster than you,
the boy you went to school with who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body,
you only leave home when home won’t let you stay.
no one would leave home unless home chased you,
fire under feet,
hot blood in your belly.
it’s not something you ever thought about doing,
and so when you did — you carried the anthem under your breath,
waiting until the airport toilet to tear up the passport and swallow,
each mouthful of paper making it clear that you would not be going back.
you have to understand,
no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.
who would choose to spend days and nights in the stomach of a truck unless the miles Badass Teachers Association: Being Muslim Is Not a Crime by Ferial Pearson: