Shattering Our Image of "The Other": 9 Pro-active Things to Do
By Jawad Jafry
Today more than at any other point in our history, each and every Muslim will be viewed by people as a representative of Islam. How we conduct ourselves will have a direct impact on how people think about our beliefs and values. Muslim lives have been lost in this tragedy, we are outraged, we are grieving and we are under attack from those who do not understand us and who are looking to vent their anger. We can ALL play a role in helping to save more innocent lives from being destroyed.
Aside from Islamic media, there are virtually NO positive images of Muslims in the mainstream. To make matters worse, Muslims often keep to themselves and do not participate in important efforts to promote the public good. Non Muslims, therefore, have no way of understanding what is "normal Muslim" behavior. When they are surrounded with information about extremism and fanaticism, it is easy to believe this is how we really are.
For too long Muslims have been on the sidelines, content to let others work in order to find out the truth about us and our way of life. It is time for all of us to help others understand - with actions and not just words.
9 Pro-active Things to Do During This Crisis:
[All communities are encouraged not only to inform the media about their activities but also other Muslim organizations like SoundVision.com. Let us inspire and inform all of American society - both Muslim and non Muslim.]
1. A City-Wide Day of Fasting and Prayer (Nafl Siyam and Dua).
Advertisements should be taken in out in local newspapers and non Muslims should feel welcome. Let our neighbors and the media know that Muslims truly care and are concerned for our society. Of course, proper security arrangements need to be in place. This can be done with the cooperation of the local police. If large numbers of non Muslims attend, let them know briefly the importance of acts associated with Islamic fasting - e.g., adhan, iftar, and, salat. You may want your interfaith groups to also give a call for this day or you give out a joint call for this.
2. A Public Prayer Meeting.
Again, ads can be purchased to publicize this event and the media should attend. If possible the community should publicly offer charitable funds to organizations who are helping with relief efforts, or, to local Fire and Police representatives. Many firefighters and police officers have lost their lives and some of their families are in need. There is already a fund set up for families of New York firefighters. Security concerns should not be overlooked at such events. Speeches and supplications should be brief, dignified and understandable to all who attend. If a salat time approaches, arrangements for salat - with a brief explanation for non Muslims - should also be made.
3. Organize Blood Donations.
For example many Chicago Muslims in Islamic attire came to Rev. Jesse Jackson's Operation Push headquarters for their blood drive. It may also be a good idea to send an email to people at work to organize a blood drive at your office. (Adequate blood supplies are a major societal need. Many times, especially in the summer, hospitals dont have enough blood. Therefore, regular donations throughout the year can be a welcome, life-saving practice.)
4. Islamic Full-time and Weekend Schools Can Raise Funds.
5. Get Well Cards and Messages.
6. Interfaith Condolence Meetings.
7. Recognize the Work of Muslim Doctors and Nurses.
8. Muslims Throughout the World Can Donate.
9. Reach Out to Your Neighbors.
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