About this submission
The Most Beautiful Names addresses identity politics plaguing Muslim Americans in the United States. The title of the multimedia project was inspired by a verse about the Quran’s 99 names. They each carry sacred meanings, but what is seen as a gift in one region of the world is seen as a burden in another. Due to racial profiling many people change their names to assimilate. It raises the question: How can one feel free, if being open about your identity if it threatens your safety?
This project was inspired by a memory right after 9/11. During highschool, there is this expectation of having “the talk” with your parents. That awkward coming of age exchange about love, life and everything in between. Like many Muslims, Immigrants or POC: “the talk” takes on a different tone. It is one that is also avoided, but must happen as it is a conversation on survival. No parent wants to admit to their child that they are not invincible and at worse; may fail to protect us. My dad and I were driving when he casually asked me if I wanted to change my name, because I could pass. He expressed his concerns and the uncertainty of the times. I realized the man I knew to have the answers, with both a plan and a back up plan, was always prepared because he felt the crushing pressure of not being able to make one mistake in this country.
I remember asking him if he was going to change his name. He said “No.” I said I didn’t want to either. In a country, where you can lose your rights, freedoms and your loved ones, I needed something that couldn’t be taken away. There are two things that can’t be taken away from a person: their name and their story The act of storytelling is a way we can preserve our truth, heritage and histories. This project explores both storytelling and our names.