You have most likely heard some type of comments regarding Muslims and Islam. Whether you know a Muslim or not, felt compelled to respond, but simply did not know what to say, you are not alone. I applaud you for taking the opportunity to find out how you can help fight Islamophobia and encourage peace in the world. This guide will help you to be an ally to the Islamic community and the basic principles can apply to the defense of all groups and help to eradicate stereotypes and discrimination.
First things first, respond with patience. While it is tempting to respond to negative statements quickly and with equal or greater negativity, don’t! You will simply be adding fuel to an already kindled fire. Instead, fight fire with water. As humans, we tend to fear the unknown. Often, hatred stems from ignorance, so be prepared to provide some information!
If the statement is vague, ask for clarification or specifics so you can better address the situation. This makes the person think about their statement and the real reason for it. Encourage dialogue and if you do not know the answer, just admit it and offer to find the answer. Text or call someone who does know the answer, or perform a Google search. While generic searches may not give you the complete answer or unbiased information, it is at least a starting point for a conversation. This can also give you an opportunity to point out errors in information.
When someone states another person should “go back where they came from,” ask if they know where that person is from. If the answer is no, suggest they may have been born here or remind the person that unless they are First Nation people, they came from immigrants too. For many, their family has been in the United States for so many generations, they have removed themselves from their immigrant ancestors.
You could go one further and ask what their issue is with either that person in particular or with immigration. Once again, remind them that outside of First Nation people, the United States was founded by people seeking freedom from tyranny and oppression. This should help put things back into perspective for many people. For some, it will not and they will be hell bent on fighting immigration.
Sometimes people are mad about immigrants “taking” jobs from U.S. citizens or jobs being moved to foreign countries. Reminding them that people living legally in the U.S. are entitled to finding a job and that job movement is the fault of the company, not its employees — this can help shift the anger to the right place.
Yes, terrorism is a problem, and phrases like “Radical Islamic Terrorists” will not help prevent people from automatically thinking of Muslims when something horrific happens. However, terrorism is not limited to one race or nationality. Groups like the Ku Klux Klan came from a collection of like-minded individuals seeking change or resistance to change. This group evolved into a group of people with extreme ideas and actions resulting in a terrorist group.
According to History.com, even the group’s first grand wizard, Nathan Bedford Forrest, tried to break up the group due to their extremity. Extremists come from every background, but do not define the group. Just because the Ku Klux Klan was founded in the southern United States by White military veterans, does not mean all southern White military veterans are part of the Klan or have the same ideals.
Stories of violence and harsh laws are found in the Old Testament of the Bible. The word infidel means a disbeliever and applies to anyone that does not believe, not just disbelievers of Islam. This term is not only in the Quran. The word infidel appears in the Bible in Deuteronomy 13:6 and 1 Timothy 5:8 as well as in other verses. Honestly, the beliefs of Jews, Muslims and Christians are far more similar than they are different. We share laws, prophets and the belief in God. Encouraging people to read reputable information about religious texts will help dispel false rumors.
While there are some cultures that mandate a woman to cover her body, it is not strictly a religious ruling. Islam is not alone in saying women can cover. Orthodox Jewish women adhere to the rulings found in Ketuboth 72 requiring head covering and the Bible commands women to cover their hair in 1 Corinthians 11:4-16. Many other religions and cultures observe head covering as well as some form of modest dressing. Honestly, what is wrong with covering one’s body to preserve it for their spouse and God? Would it be too bold to say many people complaining about overdressing also complain about miniskirts?
It can be very aggravating to deal with people making negative and harsh comments about Muslims, especially when there is no truth or basis for those comments. You probably will not be able to reach everyone or change everyone’s minds about Islam and Muslims, but at least you can plant a seed of information that may bloom later. Advocating and educating these people will help put an end to the senseless violence and aggression associated with Islamophobia.