6+ Ways You Can Support Your Local Muslim Community

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Some people think a job should be a reliable source of income. Others think their job should continue building their professional skill set.

Fortunately I’m independently wealthy (ha), and I gain my skills by plugging into the Matrix every night. So really, I just go to work to learn more about humanity.

For example, the administration recently sent out a mass email informing us that attendance at this year’s holiday party is mandatory.

Apparently that’s a thing.

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I have a sudden urge to wear this shirt to the party.

Perhaps more somberly, I’m now watching the news a lot more, thanks to the TV opposite our front desk that blares CNN every minute of the workday.

And guess who’s been featured heavily on CNN in the past few months?

If you answered “The Dalai Lama” or “Puppies and unicorns”, (a) you’re watching a different CNN, and (b) I want to know how to access it. I was referring to Monsieur Trump.

Oh, Trump. Trumpity Trump Trump.

I’m not going to lie: the desire to crack a joke about his hair is almost overwhelming. But then I remember that part of being a good feminist means not perpetuating the terrible tradition of judging people’s worth by their appearances. So I’ll let John Mulaney say it for me.

Jokes fade, however, in light of this insidious trend of painting the whole of Islam with the same terrorist brush, and vandalizing mosques, and committing violence against Muslims, and generally getting F’s in both Compassion 101 and Elementary Rational Thinking for the semester.

Fear not, though: the semester is now over. A new one is beginning. We can do better.

So looking ahead, what can we non-Muslims do to let our Muslim neighbours know we value their safety and civil rights?

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I googled this question a few weeks ago and got basically no pertinent results, so this is our chance to be more current than Google. Oh, yes. Relish this moment, my friends, and if you have more thoughts about how to support one’s local Muslim community, chime in below.

  1. Check in with the Muslim community to see how you can support them.  In the process of writing this entry, I found this marvelous Facebook post from an American Muslim, detailing some things we non-Muslims can do.
  2. Education, education, education. I’m not going to lie: in sixth grade, 9/11 made me terrified of Muslims. Then my dad (a history buff and a pastor) came to my class to give us a quick introduction to Islam, and we were all like, “Oh, okay, we didn’t need to be scared.” So if you don’t know a hijab from a niqab — or if you’re like me and you thought Islam oppressed women until a friend gently corrected you — I recommend taking a few minutes every day to learn something new about the religion that 23% of the world adheres to. Not sure where to start? Reza Aslan is my go-to guy right now, but there’s also no shame in Wikipedia for the big picture. Here’s a fun fact to get you started: Nine majority-Muslim nations have signed the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and seven more have acceded to it (which essentially has the same effect as ratification). Who’s conspicuously absent from the list of supporters? ‘Murica.
  3. In your own circles, be That Guy. I know, I know — someone who habitually delivers warnings about the influx of Sharia law in the U.S. usually doesn’t appreciate being interrupted. But your interruption doesn’t have to be dramatic. Using that education from step #2, you can gently derail them with a pleasant “Actually …” or “I thought the same thing, but as it turns out …”
  4. Reach out to your local mosque. Tell them you’re glad they’re in the neighbourhood. Thank them for the charity work they do. Ask if there’s anything you can do to show your support — maybe their groundskeeping team needs another volunteer, or there’s a community dinner you could attend. If you’re a praying person, let them know you’re praying for their members’ resilience and safety. If you run some sort of local periodical, offer them some PR through an interview or a local interest piece. If they’re planning a fundraiser for a charity project, show up and support them.
  5. Respect their space. When I reached out my local mosque, I had grand dreams about what might happen as a result. They would be overwhelmed by my offer of support, and respond with oodles of gratitude! We could form a local interfaith alliance! I would go down in history as a pioneer in American Christian–Muslim relations! I’d forgotten, of course, that I am just one little fish in the big, big pond of interfaith conversations, and also that this kind of thinking is a form of colonial paternalism. I’d also forgotten that my local Muslim community is composed of human beings. With, you know, rights and stuff. Including the right to be left alone and decide their own PR strategy.
  6. Remember you have a vote. As this conversation on Islam in America continues to unfold, keep a close eye on who’s saying what, and let it inform your voting in the future. If you think your current representatives aren’t responding well, let them know you’re disappointed. (Not sure who to contact? This website will tell you.)

Any other ideas out there? If you’re a Muslim in a largely non-Muslim area, what kinds of support would you like to see?

[Bonus resource: WISE’s “100 Extraordinary Muslim Women, Past and Present” project. So cool!]

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Image credits: screen detail from charlemagne, Weird Al shirt from JSRDirect, Istanbul mosque from falco, and Medina mosque from omeng on Pixabay.