The Uproar

My Way / Mo Khatami

photo by D. Crickets

photo by D. Crickets

Mohammad Khatami, Guest Writer

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Stay a while and listen! Few people have ever met a Shiite, and fewer have met one who writes in English.

It’s not hard to see why Shiites are so overlooked. If we are not praying to the East or mourning the death of a martyr, we are most likely fasting for Ramadan. No Shiite wants to experience infinite damnation, and Ramadan is the perfect opportunity for us to flaunt piety and avoid hell. But, combined with my coach Sanshiro “Sunny” Abe’s wrestling practices, Ramadan is hell.

Last June, during Ramadan, my teammates and I prepared for our scheduled run. My fasting left me with parched lips and a hunger-cramped abdomen. The seniors were wrong—I should have left my shirt on for Abe’s 4-mile “warm-up.” Up and down the bleachers we ran, surrendering before the Sun’s burning rage. I don’t remember how long the death march lasted, but when it ended, I joined the team in a somber pilgrimage to the water fountain. After waddling a few steps, my body shuddered convulsively and I fell to the concrete. “C’mon! Do you want to run again? Get up!” my team shouted, but I wasn’t faking a seizure for attention. I was having a heatstroke. Most cases report permanent brain damage if the victim endures 20 minutes without treatment. After 30 minutes, victims are relieved of their brain cells and sent to the pearly gates. So it goes.

Sour vomit oozed from my mouth as my eyelids flapped to the adagio of a funeral elegy. Succumbing to acid build-up, my quads betrayed me and became anchors. Our trainer, Scott, arrived at the scene. I was too fatigued to register his questions, so he smothered me with an ice-pack instead. I had learned of heat transfer in my physics class, but experiencing it was different. I flailed wildly, shrieking and punching the hard tiles below. My teammates recoiled, thinking I might become the next martyr of Islam. My stomach churned, releasing a stream of illogical verbal diarrhea. “Scott, I’m a Muslim, dude! I ain’t doing drugs, man! W-what’s going on?”

Within an hour, I regained consciousness. Wrestling practice made fasting impossible, and most people expected me to quit. Devotion to dogma and ritualism is a litmus test for being Muslim, so if an activity didn’t perfectly correlate with what I understood to be my Muslim identity, I couldn’t participate. Boy Scouts? “It’s the Boy Scouts of AMERICA, Mohammad.” Student Council President? “It’s called the WHITE House for a reason, Mohammad.” Trying to participate as an American was hard, but being Muslim wasn’t any easier. “You are praying wrong, Mohammad, put your hands across your chest.” “You’re fasting too late, Mohammad, eat your Iftar now!”

I couldn’t even choose a culture to call my own. To the Sunni’s, I’m a Shiite heretic. My prayers are blasphemous, my beliefs are sacrilegious, and my very existence is an affront to Islam. To my classmates I’m a terrorist. My identity alone sparks violence. I’m not Muslim enough for the Sunnis, but I am somehow brown enough to be an American outcast. I tried to reconcile the worlds of Islam and America, and, in return, my ambitions were crushed.

I came home just in time for the Maghreb prayer, but I began thinking instead of praying. I wondered if my fervent prayers were useless. Religion alone could not help me decide the right path for my life. I had to help myself. No God, no shahs, no mullahs, and no coaches—only me. As the Hadiths say, “Trust in Allah, but tie your own camel.” My decision was final: I would return to wrestling with another empty stomach. I suppose I should’ve quit for Islam’s sake, to submit fully to Allah. But I’m an Iranian piece of Shiite. If my life was already written by Islam, I will find a way to change the script.

1 Comment

One Response to “My Way / Mo Khatami”

  1. Jimmy T. on February 16th, 2018 9:00 am

    It was a good read bro from one teammate to another, keep doing you.

    [Reply]

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