At the Smoothie Shop
written by Sabina England, 2012There was just a shooting and a bombing in Norway today. I bet Muslims did it. They’re such fucked up people.
My friend, Kim, said that to me as we walked into the smoothie shop. She held the door open for me and I stopped to look at her.
What? I repeated, searching for a hint of humor in her face.
Didn’t you see the news? she asked me, there was just a terrorist attack in Norway.
What makes you think Muslims did it? I asked her, feeling troubled by her earlier remark.
She laughed. Muslims blow up everything, she replied, don’t you know that?
Kim still held the door open, impatiently waiting for me to move. I entered the shop, followed by Kim who let the door slam shut. We walked to the cash register to look up at the menu of smoothies. There were about twenty different flavors. I tried to read the menu with interest, but I had difficulty focusing because I kept thinking about Kim’s remarks. I turned around to her and I replied:
I’m a Muslim.
She became surprised. Huh? she said, I thought you’re Hindu?
Uh, no, I shook my head, I’ve told you before that my family is Muslim.
You never said that, Kim replied, I always thought y’all were Hindus because you’re from India.
I rolled my eyes. India has about 250 million Muslims, I explained, and I could have sworn I’ve told you before that I’m Muslim.
Nope, Kim replied. She looked back up at the menu. I think I’m gonna have that Blueberry Blaze smoothie. That sounds good, doesn’t it?
That’s it? I was appalled by her lack of concern over what she said to me about my own people. That we Muslims were fucked up people who blow up everything.
Hey, I said, listen to me. I told you I am Muslim. Aren’t you going to apologize?
She looked confused. Apologize for what? she asked.
Um, what you said about Muslims. That we’re fucked up people and we blow up shit.
Why am I supposed to apologize for that? I’m telling you the truth, Zara, everyone knows it’s true.
My mouth dropped open. Seriously, Kim? I stuttered, are you fucking serious?
Why are you getting so mad? Kim said, everyone’s looking at us. Calm down, Zara.
She chuckled. I quickly glanced around to see if anyone were watching. There was a college student seated at a table in the corner and she had her face buried in her geology textbook. There was an old man sprawled out on the couch and his eyes were shut. I looked over at the cashier and saw that he was texting on his cell phone. Kim was lying, nobody were looking at us.
Just calm down, she said again, a hint of smugness in her voice.
Calm down? I repeated, feeling myself getting angrier, don’t fucking tell me to calm down. Are you going to apologize to me for what you said about my people?
Dude, you’re making yourself look bad, Kim replied, just calm down and please order a smoothie already. Quit getting so mad over everything. It’s my opinion and I’ll say what I want.
Why the fuck do you want to hang out with me and get smoothies if you think I’m going to blow you up anyway? I retorted. My family and I are just fucked up terrorists, right?
Zara, I always thought you were Hindu, Kim said, just chill out. She then laughed. I didn’t know you’re Muslim.
I stayed silent and tried to think of what to do next. I didn’t want to explode and scream at her, or else I’d confirm her racist stereotypings about women of color. Fuck, I never knew before what a racist bigot she was. We were friends for almost a year, when we met at a punk show. We bonded over riot grrl bands. I’d never at once heard her express any racist sentiments about Muslims or other people of color. Or did she? I tried to remember if she’d said anything offensive about other groups. Nope. Wait a minute--there was that one time when she complained about rap music. I hate rap, she spat out. She shuddered at the word rap. Like it was filth. When I told her I didn’t mind some rap and hip hop, she persisted in how awful and nasty rap was, that it was deeply misogynistic and offensive toward girls and women. When I pointed out that rock ‘n’ roll, punk rock, heavy metal, and country music were just as awful with their attitudes toward women, she ignored that and kept ranting how much she hated rap. Was that some kind of a subtle hint that she hated black people? I never even thought about it. We mainly talked about punk bands and sexism. We barely talked about politics or race issues.
Thoughts furiously swirled in my mind.
Kim stood there, staring at me with an amused expression on her face.
I felt the anger inside me rising. That stupid fucking racist Islamophobic bitch. Yeah bitch. Keep laughing, I silently thought to myself, and I’ll fucking stab you in the face with my fork, you little fucking racist whore.
I am hungry, Kim said impatiently, are you going to get a smoothie or not?
Are you going to apologize to me or not? I snapped. But I already knew how she would respond.
Apologize for telling you my opinion? Kim replied, I’m not gonna apologize for what I believe in.
Okay then I’m going to leave, I replied. Nice knowing you, racist bitch.
I turned around to walk out of the smoothie shop.
I am not racist, Kim called out to me, you can’t be racist against a religious group.
I stopped walking and looked back at her in disbelief. Sure you can be racist against a religious group, I replied, trying not to get angry, there are brown and black people who are not Muslim and even they get attacked because dumb bitches like you think they’re Muslim. Ever heard about Sikh men who were murdered in hate crimes because some fucking white trash redneck thought they were Muslim or Arab?
I have no idea what you’re talking about, Kim replied, I am not racist because Muslims are not a race.
Ok, then, I replied, you’re an Islamophobic bigot.
Islamophobia doesn’t exist, she replied, that’s a fake word the media made up to make Americans feel bad for criticizing Muslims.
I wanted to run across the smoothie shop and jump at her and strangle her and pound in her ugly sneering face. I wanted to grab her blonde hair out and rip it out of her scalp. I wanted to kick in her teeth with my Doc Marten boots. I wanted to stomp in her rosy pink cheeks with my fists. Fucking goddamned racist Islamophobic cunt whore bitch.
You basically said that I am a fucked up person and that my mom and dad and brother and sister are all fucked up people, I said, walking back toward her, you have implied that anyone of us would blow up a building because we are Muslims. Do you know there are over 1 billion Muslims worldwide? If what you say is true, why aren’t we blowing up shit everywhere everyday all over America and Europe 24/7 all the damn time?
Oh my god, dude, you’re shouting at me, Kim said, rapidly blinking her ugly blue eyes, you’re fuckin crazy like all Muslims. You’re like a radical, Zara. I was just expressing my opinion. You Muslims want to force all of us to agree with you. Calm the fuck down.
Fuck you, I laughed, you’re gonna tell me to calm down? You’re telling me that I’m a radical because I’m upset you said racist hateful things about my people? I’m gonna tell all the punks and hippies what a racist whore you are.
I’m a whore? Kim said, shocked, why are you calling me misogynistic sexist words? And here all this time I thought you were a proud feminist-
Sweetie. You’re a fucking whore because you have no dignity, I replied, it has nothing to do with gender. Oh, and Kim, I love how you’re upset that I called you a whore after you’ve said racist hateful things about me and my family and my people because we’re Muslim.
Why are you being hateful? Kim said, grabbing my arm. I thought you and me were friends. We had this special bond. Why are you being like this, Zara? Fuck politics! Fuck race! Fuck all religions! You and I are supposed to be friends!
I looked down at her ugly hand on my arm.
Take your hand off me, I calmly said as I felt my body beginning to shake, take your hand off me or I will rip you to pieces and I’ll show you what it’s like to be blown up by a fucked up Muslim radical.
She took her hand off me and retreated. Her face was stunned and red, like someone had smacked her across the face and then punched her.
I turned around and walked out of the smoothie shop. For the whole morning, I had been craving for a mixed strawberry-banana smoothie, but not anymore. My appetite was gone, and all my enthusiasm had been drained out. Tonight, I was supposed to attend a basement punk show but I knew Kim would be there. I decided I wouldn’t go after all or else I’d run up to her and punch her in the face.
Later in the evening, when I went on Facebook to check messages, I found out a Norwegian man was behind the terrorist attacks in Norway, having killed 69 Norwegians.
Muslims didn’t do it, like Kim claimed.
Muslims didn’t do it, like many Americans wrote and commented online.
Muslims didn’t do it, like the New York Times boldly declared on the front page without showing one bit of evidence.
A white man did it.