Boston launched a new public service initiative this week with the aim of encouraging bystanders to intervene if they witness anti-Muslim harassment. A new poster campaign was launched following an increase of reported hate crimes against Muslims, particularly an incident in which a 34-year-old man was charged for yelling anti-Muslim slurs at a 61-year-old woman who was wearing a headscarf on the Orange Line before hitting her with an umbrella.
The guide was initially created by Paris-based French-Middle Eastern artist, Maeril, and translated into English for the Middle Eastern Feminist group on Facebook about a year ago. The illustration showcases a non-confrontational technique, called “non-complementary behavior,” which counters the expectations of the aggressor, therefore disempowering them.
What to do if you are witnessing Islamophobic harassment? A bystander’s guide to helping a person who is being targeted.
- Engage in conversation
- Pick a random subject and start discussing it
- Keep building the safe space
- Continue the conversation until the attacker leaves & escort them to a safe space if necessary
Boston will see 50 of these posters go up throughout the city. Similar ones have been placed throughout San Francisco and New York, and complement anti-oppressive signs that many local shopkeepers are displaying proudly in their windows, in direct response to a hateful climate fueled by the recent presidential elections. Jewish Voices for Peace, for example, is one of many organizations working on developing and sharing bystander modules.
At MuslimGirl, we believe that these forms of compassionate interventions can be utilized to support any marginalized-person facing xenophobic attacks at the intersection of race, faith, gender, sexual orientation, ability, presentation and appearance, and hope that allies utilize some of these techniques to safely hold-space for victims of verbal violence during such attacks.