Friday, March 22, 2019

How should you deal with hatred towards Muslims?

Prayers during Ramadan in 2013 inside a mosque in Harlem, NY.

Islamophobia and resulting hate crimes towards Muslims in the west received the attention of change-makers and concerned Muslims and non-Muslims worldwide and particularly in the west. 

However, the widespread ignorance and lack of exposure to Islam and Muslims among millions in the United States and less diverse parts of the western world is a much more serious issue that needs to be addressed, discussed and resolved. Ignorance can lead to misconceptions and fear, that may escalate to so much more. 

The rise of anti-Muslim discourse as well as governmental policies against Muslims supported and amplified by the media machine is turning common European and American citizens into haters and attackers.

At the same time, we are also witnessing unprecedented acts and signs of solidarity, love, and support from segments within these very same societies. This is a time of great trial for people's faith and principle but it's also an incredible opportunity for change. 

The following are some ideas and suggestions for you If you are a non-Muslim ally who wants to help change things:

1- Ask about and discuss with Muslim friends and allies the ways they want and need to be supported by a non-Muslim ally. They will surely appreciate it, and it will also give you a better idea for your solidarity efforts and help you build more strategic and long term partnerships.

2- Don't be embarrassed for not knowing enough about Islam. That's very normal considering that there are very few opportunities for many non-Muslims to find good information. 

Most Muslims like to talk to others about the real message of Islam. Discuss with Muslims your own ideas about Islam, what you know and what you don't, and the things you are confused about regarding the religion and the diverse groups of people who are affiliated with it. 

3- Learn about Islam and Muslims from Muslims and Muslim sources. Read literature and watch media produced by Muslims, not just 'others'. 

As a matter of fact, modern days Islamophobes and haters are not the only ones who wronged Muslims and spread misconceptions about Islam. 

Orientalist literature and a great deal of western originated books and literature written by non-Muslims, who willingly or unwillingly didn't carry or deliver the full message, share a huge part of the responsibility for what we are dealing with today. 

So, talk to your Muslim friends or colleagues, ask for suggestions, find reliable and authentic books, articles, videos, and news produced and written by different kinds of Muslims and see what they have to say about themselves and their own religion.  

4- Try to avoid offending religious people if you aren't religious yourself. If you are trying to be an ally or show solidarity, please don't say things like "I hate religion, the idea of religion is stupid, all religions are horrible, but I support you guys worshiping whatever you want". 

These statements come out really harsh and makes religious Muslims uncomfortable and it makes them doubt the sincerity of your motivations for wanting to support their cause. 

Even If you do have strong positions on religion, which we totally understand, try not to offend others when you're trying to be in solidarity with them against hatred. 

You are not expected to believe in Islam or be exactly like those you are trying to support. However, there's a huge difference between mere tolerance, and respect for other people's differences.

Fellow Muslim brothers and sisters:

1- In such hard times, turn back to your Lord and remember that he is the best of planners, the most merciful to his servants, the all hearing, and all seeing. There is only good in all the bad that happens and you'll be rewarded for your patience and perseverance.

2- Don't hide or feel ashamed, don't change your name, or be quite about your Muslim identity rather, embrace it. As I heard a speaker say recently: You have as much right as anybody else to be here, walk with your head up. 

2- Talk to people in your workplace, school, or social circle about your experience with Islam and find opportunities for inter-faith dialogue, positive contribution to your community, and building bridges with people of conscious as well as other oppressed groups. 

3- Recognize that ignorance is as dangerous as hatred.

As I mentioned earlier, there's Islamophobia and hatred, and there's also ignorance and lack of exposure to Islam and Muslims. Have you thought about the number of Americans who never heard about Islam? Or the ones who know that what they hear in the media is not the only story and are looking for someone to ask in person? You can be their first encounter, make sure it is a positive one.

Believe it or not, there are still people who don't even have a position on Islam and Muslims. A lot of these people can become allies or at least knowledgeable about it. 

I can assure you that the results of genuine and friendly human-human interactions are incredibly positive having visited several parts of the US where I happened to be the first and/or only Muslim people met or talked to.

Written in Nov, 2016 in the United States of America by a Muslim immigrant young woman.