Islamophobia is real. You may have personally experienced it or know a family member, friend, or acquaintance who has. You may hear of news accounts which describe incidents of harassment, violence, and even murder. And it is happening all over the globe.
In order to make a change in this vicious dynamic, each and every one of us must work to learn about Islamophobia and fight against it. Let’s first agree on the definition.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) “views Islamophobia as a prejudice against or hatred of Islam and Muslims and also describes an Islamophobe as an individual who holds a closed-minded view of Islam and promotes prejudice against or hatred of Muslims (2013).” CAIR has also been careful to note that Islamophobia is not “debating about the practice of the faith; nor is it Islamophobic to denounce crimes committed by individual Muslims or those claiming Islam as a motivation for their actions.”
To make a difference and change this dynamic, we need to learn how to fight Islamophobia. Here are several calls to personal and collective action.
1. Remember the Prophet.
Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, was subject to horrible insults and hate crimes in his lifetime. Despite the challenges, he remained steadfast, patient, and tolerant in the face of persecution and violence. We must model this same behavior.
“Good and evil deeds are not alike. Requite evil with good, and the person who is your enemy will become your dearest friend. But none will attain this save those who endure with fortitude and are greatly favored by God” (Quran 41: 34-35)
Pray that God Almighty guides these people who mock the Deen and one of His Prophets.
2. Note that incidents of Islamophobia are not isolated.
There can be quite a range of offenses with snide remarks or name calling on one end and the most extreme forms of murder and genocide on the other. Over the past decade we have seen a rise in incidents of Islamophobia across the globe – the threat of bombing Makkah, calling Islam evil, depicting the Prophet as a terrorist, disrespecting the Quran, discriminating against Muslims in jobs or housing, profiling other people of color because they look like Muslims, torturing prisoners, bombing civilians, extricating Muslims from their homelands, and even disappearances and mass killings.
3. Use the word Islamophobia where it fits.
These illegal acts and atrocities must be correctly named. It is important to describe any kind of hate crime or speech against Islam and Muslims in this manner. By doing so, you raise awareness among individuals and across communities.
4. Equate racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.
These all are fruits of the same tree of hate.
5. Teach about Islamophobia in your circles of influence.
Each of us has the capacity to teach from where we sit. If you are involved in interfaith work, bring up the topic of Islamophobia at your meetings. Stress the urgency and need for people of all faiths to help address and publicly condemn all other forms of intolerance. If possible, get the organization to issue a public statement to condemn Islamophobia in general, as well as in response to specific incidents like those mentioned above. Similarly, you can teach in your workplace, school, neighborhood, or community gatherings.
6. Stay well informed yourself.
Many Muslims have become frustrated with bias in news coverage and they have abandoned watching or reading mainstream news media altogether. While we still see many instances of biased reporting either overtly or in what is left out of a news report or the news lineup, it is extremely important to get a pulse on what is being promoted on television, newspapers, and on social media. There is a balance needed, too, and to check that box, tap into our uniquely Muslim voice on Muslim Network TV. For up-to-date news coverage, visit muslimnetwork.tv/news regularly.
7. Report every incident of Islamophobia to authorities.
Immediately call 911 if you are in danger. Note that the FBI collects hate crime statistics. Report instances of hate speech and violence to your local FBI field office here. Also, file a report with CAIR. They issue a report on Muslim civil rights in the United States annually.
If your child is experiencing Islamophobic bullying in school, be sure to alert teachers and school administrators of the details. This is especially important if the behavior is a repeated, rather than a single incident. Every school jurisdiction has a reporting mechanism, so be sure that the incidents and the response to them is recorded. Remember, addressing the matter head on is the best way to use it as a teachable moment for all involved.
8. Look for allies in the media.
We know that not all journalists or all non-Muslims support this type of insulting behavior. Many have been at the forefront of condemning torture, bombing and occupation, and genocide. According to polling data, there are 75 million Americans who, despite all of Islamophobic media messages, think positive about Islam and Muslims. Let’s be sure to ask for their assistance.
9. Be a voice in the media yourself.
For every incident of Islamophobic hate speech, bullying or violence you experience or hear about, write a letter to the editor and your local civil rights organization about it. Be forthright in asking them to take action as well. You can also call in to radio and TV programs that relate to the topic. Even if your comments are not included on the air, the input can have a significant impact on future programming.
10. Sponsor reports on Islamophobia.
Clear reporting is important and so, too, is research to document the impact of bigotry and anti-Muslim hate. And it is important for adults and children alike. There is widespread reporting that more than half of all Muslim school-aged children have experienced some form of Islamophobic bullying or worse firsthand. This is statistically higher than bias and harassment levied against other religious groups.
11. Advocate for all of us.
Make sure your local and national legislators are aware of Islamophobia. Remember, they are your voice in all areas of governance. Organize a delegation of Muslims from your jurisdiction if possible and arrange to make a presentation on the topic. Be sure to include a list of clear things you would like your elected officials to do to combat Islamophobia if they want your vote.
12. Make public information available about Islam and Islamophobia.
Your local library is a great place to start. Examine what is available in the catalog and identify selections they should add, too. Some good resources include “Islamophobia: Making Muslims the Enemy,” “Islamophobia and Anti-Americanism: Causes and Remedies,” and “Exposing the War against Islam.”
13. Organize a program at your local mosque or community center.
Become the local experts and sources of information on the topic of Islamophobia. Invite local interfaith leaders, businesses, journalists, community members, and your neighbors. Hold a brainstorming session as part of the program to discuss how each participant can work to solve this problem.
14. Thank those who speak out or act against Islamophobia.
Write a letter, make a quick call, or send an email message to show your appreciation for those who join the effort. Simple acts of kindness and appreciation can have an immediate and long-term impact.
15. And again, make Dua that Allah guides those who hold Islamophobic views and act upon them.
The Prophet made Dua for the Quraysh and those who tormented and assaulted him in Taif, asking for them to be guided. Ignorant actions are born out of lack of information, misunderstanding, intolerance, and white supremacy.
The rising tide of Islamophobia has been exacerbated by political discourse, fear-mongering, and sensational media coverage. Let’s do everything we can to change this phenomenon. By taking responsibility as individuals and as a collective group, we can work to create a world that values the presence, perspectives, and contributions of all of us.