When certain groups label all Muslims as terrorists or extremists, they look at us all as one entity. Whether we’re black, white, tall, short, they look at us as a whole. The unfortunate fact is that they do a better job at unifying us than we ever do!
When we stand together as Muslims, there are still many instances where a Pakistani and Jordanian family might be living in the same community, but they still don’t know each other’s names. And it’s not because they never happened to meet one another. They see each other everyday at the Masjid, their kids are in the same class, but they choose not to care.
And if you’re from another country, you might notice that there is racism and prejudice even from city to city. Or maybe even among different towns in a city! Antagonism has no bounds if we allow it to spread. Racism isn’t just an issue for the west, like the U.S., Canada, and the U.K.. Racism exists everywhere. If you don’t see it in your country, chances are that you might be among those perpetuating it.
If we ever want to gain back our respect in the world, we have to respect each other first.
Here are some tips to combat this ugly disease called racism:
1. Be confident in who you are
This might seem counterproductive, since the crux of racism is too much pride in oneself. However, pride and confidence are completely different things. Pride is the belief that your country/ethnicity/language makes you more entitled to goodness than others. If you’re confident in your roots, in your struggles, and who you are today, then insecurity will never become a problem. Most times when someone is degrading another, it’s because of deeply rooted insecurities of their past. Be confident in your background, be content with how Allah created you, and how He situated you in the world.
2. Acknowledge each other and say Salam
This cannot be stressed enough. Muslims are given this immensely unique gift of a greeting, which no other nation has. And this simple greeting can bring together hearts like no other phrase can. If you’re in the grocery store and you know that the other person is a Muslim, if the sister is wearing hijab, or any other attire/action that makes them look Muslim, then don’t hesitate. You don’t have to spark up a conversation. Just smile and say Salam.
3. Don’t generalize
If a native of a certain country or race was ever rude to you, don’t assume that all people from that country behave the same way. It’s an elementary statement, but if you analyze yourself on a daily basis, you might find yourself guilty of this. We’re enraged when the media lumps us all into one category, that the mentally unstable individuals who claim to be Muslims and commit heinous crimes somehow reflect all of the world’s Muslims. So why do we do that to our own brothers and sisters?
4. Say no to racial slurs
In our separate cultures, we’ve come up with names to describe people of other races and countries – and most of them are quite offensive. Train yourself to rid your vocabulary of these terms, because not only is it demeaning to your brothers and sisters, you’re degrading the beauty of another person, of whom Allah is the artist. If, in order to make someone laugh, you need to resort to racial slurs, that speaks volumes about your character.
5. Step out of your comfort zone
It’s understandable that if you’re newly married and just moved from another country, you’d want to find some familiarity. That’s completely fine. It’s nice to be able to relate to someone who is from the same country/city. But don’t constrict yourself. You’ll be amazed at how much you learn just by sitting next to a new sister/brother in the Masjid, during a potluck dinner, or maybe even a brief introduction at a store. Allah made us all different so that we can recognize each other, learn from one another, better ourselves, help others, etc. (Quran 49:13). If you’ve been going to the same Masjid for a decade, but you still don’t know the names of the majority of people, then there’s a problem. If others don’t approach you, get up and be the one to initiate a nice gesture. You’ll see what a difference that small action makes.
6. Arrange multicultural events
Persuade your local Masjid or community center to arrange an annual culture day, where people showcase their different cultures, cuisine, clothing, etc. You might be surprised to see how many different countries and cultures your brothers and sisters represent. Once you see all aspects of each culture, you’ll be more likely to see your community members in a positive light.
7. Stand with each other in times of grief and sickness
It’s nice to partake in someone’s joyous occasion, but it’s crucial to offer support when any of our brothers and sisters is in need. Whether it’s financial, physical, or even just emotional, your contribution will most likely never be forgotten. It’s our
obligation from Allah to seek out those who need any kind of assistance. Whether it’s a death in the family, or an illness, you should be the first one at their door. Respect their wishes, though, and don’t burden them. Some welcome the extra attention and care, and some don’t want a big fuss, so understand the needs of each person and treat them accordingly. The way to make room in someone’s heart for you, is to show that they can rely on you during their dark times.
8. Humble yourself – in every way
A Muslim who recognizes that he or she is but a slave to Allah, nothing more, nothing less, knows that pride and arrogance have no place in his or her life. In every moment, whether we’re living in meager conditions or luxurious lives, as an Indian or a Malaysian, in the U.S. or Canada, our beginning was the same, and our end will be the same. The moment you feel yourself acting a bit pretentious, seek refuge in Allah from Shaytan, and make Dua for humility. According to the Quran, a person with arrogance the size of a mustard seed will not be allowed to even enjoy the fragrance of Jannah.
Insha Allah these small reminders can help us integrate further into diverse Muslim communities with open hearts and minds, to build tolerance, acceptance, and eventually appreciation for all the goodness that our differences have to offer.