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An A-Z Guide for Being a Good Muslim Ally

An A-Z Guide for Being a Good Muslim Ally

Given the recent rhetoric spewing from the political pandemonium sometimes referred to as the United States Presidential Election, as well a spike in hate crimes and alarming attacks on our communities, it feels increasingly difficult and dangerous to be a Muslim in this country. Intolerance is on the rise, and any shred of logic once remaining in so much ignorant discourse has dissolved. Frankly speaking, it’s impossible to diagnose “where exactly so much has gone so wrong,” but it’s beyond certain that we’ve hit a point past which Muslim simply cannot endure so much Islamophobia alone.

“Ally” is a delicate term, and further, one quite hard to indefinitely define. While the role of an ally can specifically differ in regards to different groups or movements, there are some foundational principles that perpetually apply, perhaps even facilitate, throughout one’s fluid evolution as an ally.

As this search for “where exactly so much went so wrong,” grows more fuzzy and frightening–and thus more futile–perhaps it is best to call upon those who wish to stand with Muslim-Americans by considering allyship via the most basic of building blocks: the ABCs.

MUSLIM ALLYSHIP: A-Z

I never thought I’d have to imagine, let alone write, such a list–and while this is by no means serves as an absolute set of rules and regulations, I hope it at least inaugurates more clarifying conversations for those who want to help.

1. Articles

Here’s a hint: not Fox news.

Social media has consolidated the sharing of an entire story, report, or event into a few thumb taps–if even that many. Use these, and use them well. Your own absorption of these pieces is, yes, critical, but don’t curb the impact of powerful writing at yourself. Consume, but also assume–responsibility, that is. Reach beyond your radius. Chances are your approval or recommendation of a piece will encourage people who may otherwise retain previously narrow or uninformed ideas.

2. Bullshit

Call it and kill it. Don’t stand for it. This applies especially to halting hate-talk by people within your own racial sphere and realm of privilege. Read: white allies, shut shit DOWN. Please. There is so much utter intolerance spewing from so many kinds of people on so many kinds of platforms. Your objection and denouncement could hold a very serious hand in halting much of this hate.

3. Culture vs. Religion

There’s a difference. Also culture vs. cultural baggage– the latter specifically is an issue in the Muslim community, especially given the natural, but staggering percentage of immigrants in a population– and it often can be traced as the source to problems like discrimination against women. Please don’t conflate culture and and religion: it’s a blurry line that many Muslims even have a hard time discerning, but just be mindful of it. Even if you’re not exactly sure how to define it, just know it’s there and acknowledge it if someone references it, especially in regards to something you are doing (whether right) or trying to correct (if wrong).

4. Don’t try to rescue us from this oppressive, regressive religion

We’re not here to be saved from this evil spawn of a religion people like to imagine in their heads. That’s not the reality. Honestly, I’m just trying to save myself from bigots and Islamophobes. I don’t see any purpose, positivity, or productivity in your white or Western-saving. Please get over it.

5. Educate (yourself AND others)

Learn some facts. And spread the word: some other letters in this alph here will dish you some tips in terms of articles, social media, and thoughtful Muslim leaders to follow. Trustworthy, straight facts can also help debunk a decent chunk of whatever all this “Islam” stuff is. Not all Muslims are Arabs! Not all Arabs are Muslims! There are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, and around 12 million in America–about less than 1% of the US population, actually. There are five pillars, like fasting and praying. Not all women cover. Not all men have beards. Muslims compose a significant amount of leaders and luminaries in American advancements and history! Wow, facts!

But seriously, educate yourself, and others, too. It’s highly fatiguing for Muslims to be constantly interrogated or defensive of their identity; allies can really help by facilitating such conversations. Muslims have bigger systems to be fighting than dumb trolls on the internet, or even in real life. That is a crucial item with which allies can help.

6. Feel your privilege

This applies to many allies, but specifically white allies–feel your identity. Feel your privilege. Understand what your privilege entails and what that shared privilege with others has enabled. White privilege has catalyzed a disproportionate about of unhealthy mindsets–think, white supremacy–and a lot of the hate, crimes, and hate crimes that have precipitated as a result. As many posts over the Internet has begun to so precisely point out: Donald Trump in a white people problem. He is a consequence of white supremacy, and–given that every other race is held accountable for even the unthinkable actions of its bizarrest few– others of his race bear responsibility to own up and meditate this problem. I have to feel my race everyday. Feel yours, and feel and unpack the privilege and accompanies it.

7. Graduate of Facebook University of Religious Studies, PhD.

Believe it or not, this title doesn’t exist! Yes, social media is highly influential is spreading the word, and yes you should not shy away from the bountiful useful information out there. But watching an attempting-to-bust-stereotypes playlist of “NowThis” or “Buzzfeed” videos on Facebook does not translate into a doctorate in Islamic Studies–which, I cannot stress enough, is not needed to participate in these discussions. However, unequally unnecessary is a self-righteous attitude predicated on five random three-minutes clips on “Muh-zlums.”

8. Human-to-Human

So again, I’m not here to slam social media as a platform–in fact, it is beyond powerful. I use it, and I believe it helps those who undergoing struggles voice in the first-person, AKA something a minority account is rarely afforded. That being said, discourse with a real Muslims who is *gasp!* an actual human might just be unparalleled. Such interactions can even be held through social media–as well as books and meetings. Following prominent, powerful voices in the Muslim community is a great place to begin: Wajahat Ali, Reza Aslan, Tahera Ahmad, Nabeeja Syed. Everyone may have slightly different views, again, because humans are unique *wow!*–but these is a solid, stellar group of minds and hearts.

9. Impact, not intent

A huge ingredient in being an ally comes with understanding that the impact of your words trumps (ha.) the intent. But don’t let this possibility disway or discourage you. A simply apology and edit of your future words and ways will likely be enough if something you say is perceived in not the way you intended. This simply goes along the same lines of registering that, as an ally, there are things you must learn, unlearn, and tackle, and comprehending that these realizations will only make help you progress in supporting Muslims around you. When you slip up, own up to your actions and incorporate the lessons going forward. No one is going to rag on you for trying to grow as an ally.

10. Jokes

Sometimes the most immediate reaction to coping with racial slurs or Trump rhetoric comes in the form of humor–and fairly so, since some of these ideas are simply that ridiculous. But there must come a point of assuming responsibility past a snarky retweet or “LOLOLOL”– apply these reactions to call things out. I don’t get to go home at the end of the day and tuck these jokes to bed for the night. I have no choice but to let them fester in my brain and pick at who I am as I try to doze off and take a break from what has begun to feel like an unraveling reality of my world.

11. Keep an eye out – safety.

Especially in public, and yes, even (especially?!) with people you may not know. If you see people being harassed, say something. Do something. Exercise kindness to hijabi women–and stand up for them when people act inappropriately. Touch base with your Muslim peers, colleagues, neighbors, relatives, bosses, employees, doctors. Let them know you are there–chances are a lot of them have encountered hate. Don’t interrogate them to a point of discomfort, but let them know you support them. Ask them if and/or how you can help.

12. Listen

I wish “L” came first in the alphabet, but alas, so be it. You are here to speak UP, not OVER–but before you even know what to say, you need to absorb what actual Muslims are you are trying to get at. There’s a bad track record of Muslims voices being hushed and silenced–ESPECIALLY women’s. Just listen. It is the foundation of allyship, and you cannot adhere to any of the other letters without this basis. Enough said.

You are here to speak UP, not OVER.

13. Mistakes

You’re going to make them. Apologize, be accountable, apply the lessons to revise your future attitude and actions, and move on. Don’t get mad at yourself or even (especially!!!) at a Muslim for pointing it out. It’s part of it.

14. News and Nonsense

The media manipulates news into nonsense. It is both impossible and despotic for me to concretely classify which publications or sources are trustworthy and fair–but I just urge you to remember who is writing what you read. Allowing people the authority to speak FOR themselves, as opposed to relying on a some outside source to frame it sensationally, highlights both a good strategy and a good reminder: social media, despite its ability to facilitate some not-so-positives (read: trolls), is so critical in situations like these. It ultimately allows everyone a voice, even the historically disenfranchised–so, please exercise logical discernment in honoring which of these are “good” to make the most of this platform.

15. Opinions *Yours matter*

Your opinion likely influences others,’ so help spread the word beyond the web. Write to your local paper, contact your local government official to encourage support of Muslims around you, and educate kids in community. Facilitate understanding. Breed compassion. Teach love, not hate. Never underestimate the power of an oped. Never underestimate the power your opinions can have on strangers, representatives, and children.

16. Plurality

Muslims are working on this whole solidarity thing–trust me. But that doesn’t mean that all of us are going to agree on all issues. The crucial principle still stands–Muslims are a minority bound by self-affiliation to an identity, but that by no means equates all of our views, backgrounds, or opinions. The monolith myth is dangerous, reducing, and frankly, false. Respect varying values and allow others to exercise and celebrate plurality. There isn’t the extremist on one end, the token American-Muslim in the gray middle, and the non-Muslim on the other side. Smash the gray-zone rhetoric and realize Islam is more like a rainbow you can’t just put on an x-axis in relation to ISIS.

17. Qur’an feat. Questions

Plurality though? But what about the Qur’an, you ask? Doesn’t it serve as some infallible resource of answers? Well, yes and no. The thing is that the Qur’an was revealed during seventh-century Arabia, in quite nuanced and loaded Arabic–further layered with and framed by cultural references specific to the time. Human discernment facilitating interpretation is a highlighted component in Islam, but where exactly people begin drawing lines, translating certain phrases, and applying understood meanings simply leaves a substantial vacuum for questions, debate, and differences. It’s important to note that historically, Qur’anic interpretation was left solely up to certain spheres of educated men in specific societies. Today, developments have shown a gradual shift in allowing people beyond old Arab men in long beards and flowy white robes to read and regard verses from themselves. Of course, some people think that violates tradition, while others only see it as fair that a diverse lens approach such an integrally guiding force of the religion. That’s just the beginning of what produces so much of the range and plurality in beliefs and thoughts.

Phew, okay, that was a lot, but see just asking a *Question,* even on something as loaded at the Qur’an can go such a long way.

See Also

18. Religious differences amongst

Plurality has been mentioned, but let’s emphasize some key points again. People exercise their faith differently, and your judgment of these variations does not license your evaluation of who are the “right” Muslims to whom you should listen. Hijab (head covering) isn’t a correlating indicator of piety and religious knowledge, nor is it an emblem of extremism or oppression. Some Muslims might not align with your cookie cutter image of one, but that doesn’t disqualify their opinions or thoughts altogether. Or at all, really.

19. Sympathize, Don’t Empathize

Your support is key, but in your sympathy, please don’t pretend to be exercising empathy. It’s really simple: if you’re not Muslim, you don’t know how it feels to be Muslim. Sass aside, acting like you completely get the issues at hand may illustrate you as trivializing or narcissistic, and thus alienate you in ways. Just avoid it. It’s hard to be any minority, yes, but some challenges remain unique to certain groups. Understand Muslims own a decent chunk of these localized issues. There are so many ways to show sympathy without fabricating your version of empathy into the equation.

20. Take time to say sorry!

Being a Muslim right now, frankly, is stressful. I try to keep a lot of this to myself–not because I consider my feelings unwelcomed or even illegitimate–but mostly because to constantly talk about this all the damn time is exhausting. Along the lines of “mistakes,” there may definitely be times when you, as an ally, upset or further fatigue a Muslim. Just please, apologize. Sorry JBiebs, but it’s NEVER too late to say sorry. A lot of Muslims are dealing with having to so outwardly discuss their faith in new spheres and personally unchartered territory, along with the aforementioned internalized struggles–so any support, kindness, and patience would be highly appreciated. A lot of that entails “Sorry” when you perhaps say or do something that sets someone off kilter–be is a family, friend, or stranger.

21. Unlearning is part of it

There’s a solid chance you yourself currently hold some misconceptions about Islam and Muslims–THAT’S OKAY. Be willing to learn, unlearn, and grow from the knowledge you encounter. Don’t back away just because you feel unequipped or unqualified–if you’re willing to put in the effort and evolve from the new things you discover, Muslims will embrace you. Trust me–we have way bigger problems than someone making a mistake, owning up to it, and moving on along with us.

22. VERB

“Ally” is not a cute noun or hip label–it is a status predicated on deliberate action. ~A Verb~ So work through this alphabet and do all that you can: attend rallies, makes yourself a known ally and supporter, contact your government officials and reps, teach the children in your life, do your research, write and speak to your community.

23. Within: Layers, not a License

Back toward the genre of plurality and religious differences–despite all this chaos outside, Muslims are still dealing with inter-community issues. It’s impossible to tackle every detail of every problem at once, but please remain mindful that there exists a decent amount of work to tackle within. I’ll be the first to say that right now is NOT the time to quit addressing women’s issues, like leadership, representation, and assault, just because of the external attacks we face; nor is my criticism of gender dynamics within the layers of my religious sphere a licensing example for you to exploit as a tarnishing example of my community. Like any other, we’re not perfect, and we are combatting issues on several different territories at the moment. Your support, not retort, is appreciated.

24. “Xenophobia”

When you call people out for xenophobia, don’t shy away from this lexicon. This term reflects both accuracy in the situation, as well as gravity in reminding people how intolerant and ludicrous this racism is.

25. Yesterday is not today (#logic)

Muslims don’t get to take a break from being Muslim, so please don’t take a break from being an ally. It’s simply not fair to pat yourself on the back from that one time you spoke up the other day and reclassify yourself as #ally4life–it doesn’t work like that. Not only must “ally” be a verb, but it must be a consistent, continuous one.

26. Zero tolerance

We’ve gotten to a scary point–the one at which “but it’s just a joke” or “it’ll blow over” don’t hold much meaning anymore. “Fear” as a word doesn’t seem to cut it at this point.

This morning in class, for the first time, my mind simply could not focus and began mentally narrating what a 2016 Trump America would look like for me–or better yet, that it wouldn’t look like much. Don’t tolerate any more of this hate. Don’t make me think through the end of the story–otherwise the story might end me.

Image: Flickr

View Comments (17)
  • Obnoxious whining. “Literally so stressful being a Muslim right now!” The victimhood grows more profound with each terror attack.

  • 5:51
    O YOU who have attained to faith! Do not take the Jews and the Christians for your allies: they are but allies of one another- and whoever of you allies himself with them becomes, verily, one of them; behold, God does not guide such evildoers.

  • This writer is confused, scared silly. Lacks faith, knowledge, confidence and good sense. A moral coward. Not the characteristics of a Muslim.
    Hey lady keep the Qur’an. Don’t imply its rewrite with all that sly gobbledygook you cooked up. You fool no one. Discard the hijab. A poke in the eye cultural baggage. Nothing to do with Islam especially when coupled with tight boy friend jeans down below where the ‘goods’ are.
    You hijabis are mere attention seeking trouble makers.There is little to nothing of it in Islam. Else show me its raison d’etre in the Qur’an.

    • Take it easy big guy. Muslim girls are special. Fragile, innocent, vulnerable but morally stronger like none other. But you know that already.
      This is not the time for cynicism or criticism. Fear is in the air. Compassion, consideration, extra care, protection and understanding must mellow your hard line. Did not Prophet Muhammad recommend that.
      Peace.

      • Constructive criticism is relevant. Muslims need to adapt to the forces aligned against them. Muslim women are especially vulnerable to this changing environment. They MUST adapt.
        Note that the author seemed to be flirting with the rewrite of the Qur’an as are other writers and blogs, but unable to question the hijab, a Saudi fitna.
        My question is simple: Reference the Qur’an? I acknowledge no other authority…least of the Saudi.

      • Fragile, innocent, and vulnerable……it’s obvious you’re a guy. No offense, but that is not strictly true. Some of the least fragile and vulnerable women I know are practicing Muslims……because you can’t be easily broken, not in this world right now. Take it from a Muslim girl.

        • “Some of the least fragile and vulnerable women I know are practicing
          Muslims……because you can’t be easily broken, not in this world right
          now. Take it from a Muslim girl.”

          Muslim girl indeed. You have not even dared to register. And the hijabi, a hypocrite by definition…but that is quite another story altogether.

    • I tend to agree with you about the hijab, as an unnecessary provocation, but her overall advice is good commonsense. Useful and protective.

      • I concur. Her points are relevant, commendable. I was advocating adaptation as a survival mechanism. The hijab is a Saudi imposition. Not advocated in the Quran as such. No question that it is a provocation, a distortion of the image of Muslim women. Painting targets on them for any passing misfit to take a pot shot on.
        One should not overlook the total picture. The Saudi and the Israeli should be considered as the local hegemonic powers demolishing Muslim heritage and civilization.
        Their think tanks are working along with others to reinterpret Muslim scripture, dismantling Muslim families, economies, and countries.
        This work is on going: Reinterpret Islam, separating Muslims from Islam, rewriting the Quran in the Western image.

  • Be not afraid sister. These are hard times for Muslims but being Muslim was never easy. It is not going to be easy to be a Muslim, the Qur’an states that clearly, it never was expected to be easy.
    Life ends, will end one day for certain. No one gets out of here alive, but death is a paper tiger…a Muslim knows that too, for certain.
    Have courage, be brave sister,
    Peace be upon you.

  • Hello Muslim Girl, I know little of the Qua ran but one verse seems to cover a lot: Our lives are made by our deeds, not our prayers. I live very far away from everything and am rarely in cities but if I see anyone being mean and abusive to any Muslim woman or man, anywhere for anything, I will stand with them. I have no fear of of difference and welcome it! Peace Be Upon You and courage also. Live is the opposite of Evil.

  • Our lives are made by our deeds, not our prayers. This is so true. To me it is unimaginable that you claim victimhood; poor muslim having no idea what the problem is, why there is so much animosity towards muslims.
    The root problem is that Islam is as Islam does. What are the results of Islam in the 21st century. Islam is the only religion that is killing people in the name if their god. Every Islamic run country ignores the human and equal rights of homosexuals and women. Every Islamic run country refuses to allow other religions to practice freely. There are no Islamic run countries that are free, prosperous and flourishing. Muslims flock to free western countries and expect them to cater to their religious demands and support them with government handouts.
    The problem is every time a terrorist attack by Islamic terrorists occurs, the muslims in western countries say that is not Islam, while the terrorists are proclaiming a victory for Allah and Islam. Then muslims start ramping up their victim status, claiming they are afraid for their lives because of backlash, while the real victims are dead, their blood still drying in the streets.
    The problem is that muslims seem to think that we have to learn about their religion, and argue with arcane text about why Islam is the religion of peace. No, we do not have to learn about your religion, you clearly have to school yourselves about your religion. One group is killing people in the name of Allah while another group is claiming to be a religion of peace. You can’t have it both ways. If Islam is a religion of peace, then it is the responsibility of Muslims to take their religion back from those who would use it to commit evil acts. Stop playing victim and control your religion, because right now it is clear that Islam is not a religion of peace by the fruit if the religion, which is oppressive intolerant societies and the killing, rape and enslavement of innocent people. Stop demanding equal rights in civilized societies, while not respecting the rights of others.

  • This article is BULLSHIT. Why do Muslims
    kill homosexuals??? Why do women in the middle east wear beekeeper
    suits??? Why is the Rape Culture so prevalent in the mideast??? Why do
    you wear a fucking hijab??? If you don’t, then can beat and rape you
    too??? Fuck Islam and Fuck the Muslims. Islam is not compatible with the
    west. It’s a shit-hole of a 7th century religion and has no place in
    modern society.

  • You make some very good points; keep in mind, xenophobia becomes more prevalent when people flaunt differences instead of embracing similarities.

    • Embracing similarities while placing difference on the back-burner is also dangerous and can lead to white washing, which is xenophobic. I think our strategy lies in embracing difference.

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