#ZaynLeft1DForISIS By M.J. Pearl


It’s like this:
a boy with brown skin becomes famous
and people accuse him of terrorism.
his white girlfriend wears a bindi
and nobody bats an eye.

It’s like this:
when I was young, my mother said:
“don’t touch your lips; you’ll look like a camel
if they get too big.”
(fast forward ten years: Kylie Jenner says
“lip liner changed my life.”)

It’s like this:
I cannot name you more than one celebrity
who looks like me, like my brother, who has
my country’s blood running in his veins.
but I can name you ten white girls
who wear bindis as a fashion accessory;
who think mehndi is a cool trend;
who imagine my vibrant, beautiful country
as just another third-world wreck.

It’s like this:
I have ripped and burned and lightened my skin
in order to look more like you.
I have watched women who look like my sisters,
who are my sisters, lose their lives for wearing hijabs.
I have watched my brother abandon every word of Urdu
that he has ever known, because he is American.

and American means white.

It’s like this:
I was named for the Prophet’s daughter
and my full name is eight syllables long
but you can’t even pronounce the first two correctly.
you can’t even pronounce Pakistan correctly.

It’s like this:
my country was ravaged and savaged
by people who look just like you.
my grandparents were alive for our Independence Day.
and you say: “the past is the past, forgive and forget.”
and you say: “9/11: never forget.”

It’s like this:
your biggest problem is being called racist
because it’s an ugly word for an ugly person.

It’s like this:
my biggest problem is being called terrorist.
because a boy can’t leave a band
without being that hated.
because an interviewer once asked him:
“is it true you brought a gun to school?”
and he said: “it wasn’t mine, it was a toy gun,
it wasn’t real, I’M NOT A TERRORIST I’M NOT –

By M.J. Pearl


M.J. Pearl is an aspiring writer, currently in her third year of college in California. She’s been writing poetry for three years and short stories for even longer.

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