My name is Mona Shadia, and I am a savage — according to Pamela Geller, that is.
The ever-so-intellectually-challenged Geller, a blogger and the executive director of the American Freedom Defense Initiative, has been running an ad in New York and San Francisco subway stations, basically concluding that Muslims (and Palestinians) are savages.
Her message reads: "In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel — Defeat Jihad."
Let me tell you a little bit about this savage: I'm a 29-year-old who lives in the heart of Orange County.
I earn my living working (kinda) hard as a reporter all week, and by the weekend, my brain is usually fried.
I practice Bikram yoga. I'm a hopeless romantic who loves music and sings and dances for fun. I drive a Toyota Corolla that has more than 200,000 miles on it. (It's the life of a reporter.)
I went to college and have student loans.
I love my mom, family members and friends very much. We have two birds named Nefertiti and King Tut.
I party with my friends when I can, and after paying all my bills, it is always my goal to spend any extra money I have shopping.
In a few words, my friends would describe me as kind, just, loyal, tough, honest and good-hearted. They would also say I'm funny and a bit too girlie at times.
But you know, I'm also a practicing Muslim and an Arab, so that must make me a savage.
I can't help but find Geller's ad and word choices strikingly similar to other terms and tactics that for decades worked to dehumanize African Americans, leading to, dare I say, savage-like treatments of those people because of their skin color.
And what do you expect of an average person, who might not think for themselves, or even those who do think for themselves, to believe about Muslims when they see and read this ad and this type of rhetoric over and over again?
And is this not but one example of how, over the decades, human beings like the Palestinians, South Africans, Jews, Native Americans and many more have been dehumanized to make it easier to mistreat and misrepresent them?
Yes, of course it's Geller's right and freedom to run this ad. I wouldn't have it any other way. She did, after all, have to file a lawsuit to force the subway system in New York to run her ad.
But there are always consequences to this kind of attitude and behavior.
And a responsible, good citizen would practice reason — the very thing that distinguishes us humans from, again, savages.
This ad has been running for a few weeks now, but this week and last, a group of Christians and Jews countered Geller's ad with a message of peace and love toward Muslims.
According to the New York Times, Rabbis for Human Rights — North America, an organization made up of hundreds of rabbis; Sojourners, which is run by Jim Wallis, a Christian author and activist; and the United Methodist Women are running ads next to Geller's in New York subway stations.
The Jewish group's ad reads: "In the choice between love and hate, choose love. Help stop bigotry against our Muslim neighbors."
The Sojourners' ad reads: "Love your Muslim neighbors."
The United Methodist Women ad reads: "Hate speech is not civilized. Support peace in word and deed."
It's not like they need it from me, but I'm overcome with gratitude by these groups' efforts and courage.
I especially love the United Methodist Women's ad, not only because they're women and I'm empowered every time I encounter strong women making a difference in our lives, but because these few words strike a chord in my heart.
In Islam, a person's deeds are the most important part in God's eyes.
God does not look at your wealth, beauty or possessions when making decisions. It's always your deeds that matter.
And so, when you encounter hateful and demeaning words describing Jews, Christians, Muslims, blacks, whites or anyone in between because of who they are, remember they too have a heart. They too live, feel, sing, dance, love, cry, laugh and die.
MONA SHADIA is a reporter for Times Community News. An Egyptian American, she was born and raised in Cairo and now lives in Orange County. Her column includes various questions and issues facing Muslims in America. Follow her on Twitter @MonaShadia.