We grieve for the father who held us close in our infancy, in our toddlerhood, who twirled us around and called us his princess... and then who faded away as we grew gangly and got acne and began to slam doors behind which we sobbed, grieving the loss of a father who still lived.
We mourn for the father who comes home from work, face drawn and pinched, shoulders bowed from the weight of being called 'terrorist' by co-workers, eyes burning from being pulled over by cops for 'looking like Usama', wrists raw and chafed from Homeland Security dragging him away in handcuffs to be 'interviewed' at their airport, making him miss his flight to visit his dying mother.
We grieve for the brother who used to heckle us, who used to squabble over cheese and crackers and chocolate chip cookies, who used to stand up for us against the bullies at Madrasah, watchfully ensuring that our recess at the playground passed uneventfully... and then who faded away, growing angry and snappish, withdrawing into a bedroom with video games and emerging with dark circles under his eyes, ignoring us until our hearts break with grief for the loss of a brother who still lived.
We mourn for the brother who grows a beard, who is awkward but proud of his struggle to be a practicing Muslim, who carefully tucks a prayer mat into his backpack; who watches the news with horrified eyes as he watches men and women and children who share his skin colour, his curly hair, his impish smile, being blown to bits by the government of the country which he lives in, who is approached by venomously smiling spies trying to twist his words of grief into grandiose statements of terrorism, who wonders if he is truly as alone in this world as he feels.
We grieve for the greybeard masjid uncles who used to ruffle our hair and give us sweets after Jumu'ah, but whose smiles turned to frowns as we grew too old to venture into the men's musalla; who forgot that even as we were shunted into musty smelling broom closets, we still remembered the clean, open space of the men's hall; who started referring to us as 'fitnah' when only a few years ago they used to give us piggyback rides and teach us the alphabet.
We mourn for the masjid uncles who find themselves on TV when reporters barge into the masjid, demanding condemnations and explanations, who blink in confusion and try to be confident but whose tongues, trained in the professional languages of lawyers and doctors and engineers, slip from the stress and slip back into Arabic-tinged and Urdu-lilted quirks of speech; who find their pictures splashed on the front page of the newspaper, turned into bogeymen, mocked as illiterate foreigners.
We grieve for the husband who would walk in through the door with flowers, his beard unable to hide his smile, his eyes brighter than the fireworks he takes us as a late night surprise when we thought he'd be busy at work... and then whose face grew lined not with laughter, but weariness, whose sweet nothings in our ears slur into exhausted murmurs, then silence.
We mourn for the husband who teaches young children at the masjid, who shoots hoops with the teens in the driveways and mentors them with Qur'anic verses and Prophetic sayings; who looks over his shoulder warily, never sure which alphabet soup agency is watching him, who hesitates before sending every email, unsure of whether his words could land him in jail, who has been betrayed by the country he lives in, works in, used to dream of his future in, who is haunted by images of his brothers in faith being held in iron cages, who knows that somewhere out there, is a cage waiting for him.
We have lost the men we love, not through death, but through life.
We Muslim women, we grieve for our men, we mourn them while they still live.