Within my own faith group, things were even worse: The controversy around a Muslim-run community center in lower Manhattan ballooned into what we all now know as the "ground zero mosque" fiasco. New virtual strip-search technology at airports caused a national wave of indignation and renewed calls for ethnic and religious profiling. And despite the best efforts of our already stressed community, disenfranchised young Muslim men kept trying to blow things up.
Now that I'm expecting my first child, my prayers for the state of the country have gotten more urgent. Yes, I think good thoughts for the America of tomorrow. The idea of bringing into the world a little girl who will be Muslim and Arab and American makes me anxious about the future. When I dream now, it's for her and for the world I hope she will grow up in.
I pray for her sake that the Muslim community in America fulfills its potential to become a thriving part of society, actively engaged in good works and social justice. I hope that by the time she's old enough for the unfortunate realization that people sometimes hurt each other, being a Muslim in America will be as unremarkable as being a Christian or a Jew.
By that same token, I pray that being an American abroad will no longer carry the stigma of war and broken promises. I want her to feel safe and welcome wherever she goes.
I pray that people will listen to her. We've grown so used to hearing non-Muslims speak for Muslim women, dissecting their decisions about dress, behavior, belief and identity, and this worries me -- I want my daughter to be able to speak for herself. I want people to accept her reasoning and the choices she makes, rather than dismiss her as oppressed or ignorant. She will not be ignorant. I don't think there's a Muslim woman alive today who can afford ignorance. I hope people will recognize that she is perfectly capable of speaking for herself.
In order for these things to happen, the grown-ups of the world obviously have some sorting out to do.
An explosive combination of economic hardship, political turmoil at home and wars overseas has created an atmosphere in which everybody, Democrat and Republican, Muslim and non-Muslim, is waiting for the other shoe to drop. Times like these make existing tensions between different religious and social groups worse than usual.
These are my dreams, my hopes, my prayers. For the country in which I was born, into which my daughter will be born; for the faith community I adopted, into which she will be welcomed. They all blend together in my heart, and more often than not, when I pray, it is for all of us at once: for all of us, mercy.
G. Willow Wilson is the author of "The Butterfly Mosque," a memoir of love, religion and her life in Egypt. Read her blog on Red Room.
My Wish for 2011 -- An AOL News Year-End Special
We asked a dozen top writers to share their wishes for the New Year. Click on any headline to read what they hope will happen in 2011.
- Better TV News – By Barry Lynn
- A Better World for My Daughter – By G. Willow Wilson
- More Companies That Don't Suck – By Dave Logan
- More Progress for Women – By Talia Carner
- A Just Transition to Clean Energy – By Jeff Biggers
- Closing the Happiness Gap – By Catherine Ryan Hyde
- Honor for the Kalahari Bushmen – By James G. Workman
- The Courage to Ask Questions – By Sonya Huber
- More Adoptions – By Brett Battles
- A Smile, Freely Given – By J.T. Ellison
- We Stop Kicking the Can Down the Road – By Rebecca York
- A Better Next Decade – Kate Clinton