Amber Bhutta


I Am Not A Terrorist

My name is Amber Bhutta, and I am not a terrorist.

And while I am well aware that Amber is as apple pie, all American as names come, that in itself is the issue. Bestowed upon me by my “fresh off the boat,” wide-eyed parents, my first name holds fast to the unspoken ideology of our purported land of the free: assimilation or extermination.

My name is Amber Bhutta, and I am not a terrorist.

Both of my proud Pakistani parents came to this country looking to live out their right to the American Dream. My mother, who moved us from one state to another while laboring tirelessly through her exhausting hours of residency, has earned her rightful title as Dr. Faiza Khalid, now an entrepreneur in the healthcare industry. My father, stumbling into this country at the tender age of 16 with nothing more than his ambition and a vision, jumped from one low-wage odd job to another in order to struggle through college and toiled endlessly to nurse the seedlings of a dream into something more. He is now Zia Mohammed Younus Bhutta, the COO of a successful IT outsourcing company. Every ounce of success my parents have, they worked for and deserve. But, I suppose, none of that really matters.

My name is Amber Bhutta, and I am not a terrorist.

None of it really matters because no one here can see past the names “Khalid” or “Mohammed.” Every last drop of my parents’ accredited efforts and due success is trivialized because they’re Muslims, and by the transitive property of equality, if my parents are Muslims, and, as of late, many terrorists identify as Muslims, then obviously my parents must be terrorists also. But this, this atrocious assumption, is an insult to the laborious efforts of Muslims everywhere. “The American Dream,” they promised tauntingly, “means a level playing field.”

My name is Amber Bhutta, and I am not a terrorist.

You can stand there and robotically repeat “a level playing field” all you want, but then answer this: how could a playing field be even remotely level if an entire group of people is overlooked in fear of the propagated connotation of our name? How is the erasure of all of our accomplishments on the basis of what we choose to put our faith in exist in the realm of fairness? How is us forsaking our identities right because people can’t see past the scarves covering our hair or the foreign words rolling off our tongues?

My name is Amber Bhutta, and I am not a terrorist.

My Muslim identity is the basis of my sense of self, but the norms of society continually force me to justify myself, as though it is doing me a favor by condoning my religion regardless of my First Amendment rights. And yet, there are only so many times I can say it:

My name is Amber Bhutta, and I am not a terrorist. Do you believe me yet?

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