Spotlight: Suzanne Shah, poet, med student and Love InshAllah contributor!

An excerpt from Suzanne Shah’s story, “Kala Love”:

“Mika’il was a search result. Literally. When I came home from college the summer after Abbu died, Ammu still wouldn’t let me out of the house. I wasn’t ready to talk to men, but out of boredom I browsed MySpace all day, searching for black or Latino college-age Muslim men within a three-hundred-mile radius. I never looked for Bengalis, or any other desi. Ammu called me kali, which means “darkie,” and made me feel I had the wrong skin, the ugly skin. I didn’t want to marry into another family that looked down on my “kali-ness.”

To read the rest of Suzanne’s story, order Love InshAllah today!

Tell us about yourself

When I’m not immersed in my science books studying, I love to watch scary movies.  I enjoy cooking and eating good food.  I also volunteer at local non-profit organizations that focus on helping marginalized communities such as the undocumented, people coming out of incarceration, and children. Allah has blessed my life with extraordinary people, who are always there to pick me up when I’m down.  Serving my community is a way for me to give back.

Why were you drawn to this project?

The main reason I wanted to share my story is to bring awareness to one of the major issues in the Muslim community—RACISM.  Some may call my mother’s rejection of my husband based on his skin color a result of culture.  The Indo-Pak-Bengali culture is heavily influenced by the history of colonialism and caste system, as well as the American media’s portrayal of African-Americans.  It’s important to wash away the euphemisms and justifications and call it what it is—racism.

Many Pakistani and Arab families embrace my husband and admire his character as a human being and as a Muslim.  They comment on our marriage as exemplifying a beautiful unity. Yet, if their children received a marriage proposal from an African-American man, it’s always, “not my daughter!”  Racism is not one of the Five Pillars, yet some Muslims practice it more than their daily prayers.

What was the most challenging part of sharing your story?

I had a really hard time delving into my relationship with my husband.  I couldn’t recall the basic details of how we came to be.  My first few drafts talked about my childhood, my parents, and my life now, but I only had one sentence of “…and then I met Mika’il.”  That was it.  I didn’t even realize how my mind had completely blotted out the light, the noor, of our relationship.  There was so much external negativity about our marriage that I suppressed the courtship itself.  With every draft, Ayesha and Nura would comment, “Tell the readers why you chose him.”  In the process I also had to recall the bitter words from my last night with my mother.  I cried for days while writing.

After many drafts, I finally wrote: who I love, the way I love, why I love.  Now, I smile.

If there’s one thing you hope that readers will take away from your story, what is it?

I’ve always felt that love is a right and not a privilege.  Living, loving, breathing with your soulmate on a day-to-day basis is a privilege.  Many search for it and only a few find it.  Once you have it, you should never sacrifice that person for anybody.