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.  

The Golden Toga Flap: Sensitive Santas

[Note to audience: According to Wikipedia, citizens of ancient Rome used to wave their toga flaps to express approval for public performances. In the style of the Golden Globes, the Golden Raspberries, the Golden Goggles, and other alchemical plaudits, the Golden Toga Flap affirms people working to improve the world. Anyone is eligible: A-list actors, small children, teachers in rural Illinois, frat guys behind me in line at Grocery Outlet. I’m not writing these blurbs for any sort of commission; I just want to spread the word about great people doing lovely things. If you have nominations for the Golden Toga Flap, please feel free to leave them in the comments or send me a private message.]

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There’s no time of year quite like Christmas. It’s got its own foods, its own music, its own decorations and stationery and scents and greetings and movies and literature. It’s quite an egalitarian holiday, in a way. You’re not excluded if you’re blind or deaf or illiterate or allergic to a lot of foods; you’ll still be able to enjoy the holiday spirit in other ways.

But for many people, the sensory stimulation of the season isn’t a gift — it’s painful. And if your child is part of that population, it can be difficult to find holiday activities that he or she can participate in comfortably.

Enter the Sensitive Santas, who take the traditional shopping mall feature and give it a new spin. While the program varies from location to location, common features include dimmed lights, minimal decorations, low music (or no music), no crowds, crafts and snacks for the waiting children, and a Santa who moves slowly and speaks quietly. The end result? Kids with an autism spectrum disorder or a sensory processing disorder can interact with Santa in a way that is comfortable for them — and their parents can breathe a little easier with this reminder that their community has their backs and wants to help their children thrive.

If you’d like to set up a Sensitive Santa program in your community next year, AbilityPath has a guide to doing that. But no matter what this season has held for you so far, no matter how you’re feeling on this longest night of the year, here’s hoping that your Christmas Day will make some memories in all the right ways.

Many thanks to Cyn from That Cynking Feeling for bringing this topic to my attention.

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Photo credit: Santa from skeeze on Pixabay.

The Golden Toga Flap: Public servants

[About the Golden Toga Flap: Ancient Romans used to flap their togas in appreciation of a public event, in the same way that we would applaud. The Golden Toga Flap is designed to be a shout-out to people and groups making a positive difference in the world. Nominations are always welcome.]

It’s hard to believe it’s been 13 years already.

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It seems like just a little while ago that I was standing around the flagpole with the rest of the school for the two-year anniversary, then standing in a silent Newark airport lounge for the seventh anniversary, then teaching in a largely unaware Polish town for the ninth anniversary.

Thirteen years. There are kids in high school right now who have no memory of 9/11.

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For me, the most moving part of the day is the many people who went into the buildings. Getting out, away from the fires and faltering support beams, was the order of the day — and yet the firefighters, EMTs, and police offers who heard about the attacks knew that not everyone would be able to get out under their own steam, so they stepped up to do their jobs in the most nightmarish of circumstances.

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Public servants of the world, whether you’ve faced horrible situations in your work or served your entire career in the quietest town in America, we salute you now. You didn’t have to choose those jobs. You could have been botanists or typewriter mechanics or luthiers, or had some other relatively calm career. Instead, you chose to protect and serve your communities, often at the risk of your own wellbeing. For that selflessness and bravery, you deserve a hearty round of toga flapping. May your careers be long, your efforts be productive, and your devotion to your communities be as strong as it first was.

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Photo credit: Fireman from tpsdave, 9/11 Firemen’s Memorial from tpsdave, and policemen’s tiles from Ronile on Pixabay.

The Golden Toga Flap: The Harry Potter Alliance

It’s hard to believe, but D.A. Days 2014 is already over, folks. Here’s a lineup of the week’s events if you want to revisit them:

Sunday: Butterbeer cake

Monday: The Secret of Platform 13

Tuesday: How I met the Harry Potter books

Wednesday: Some gorgeous HP wall art

Thursday: The Magicians

Friday: Some gorgeous HP jewelry

And today: A special edition of the Golden Toga Flap, the semiregular award that affirms lovely people and organizations making a positive difference in the world.

You go, cheese man. Sell that Gouda.

For some time I’ve been considering the nomination of Cheese Man, who slices down evil. Many people say he’s worthy for all of his Gouda deeds, so who am I to disaBrie?

Today’s focus is on the Harry Potter Alliance, a fan-driven group on a mission:

Just as Dumbledore’s Army wakes the world up to Voldemort’s return, works for equal rights of house elves and werewolves, and empowers its members, we: Work with partner NGOs in alerting the world to the dangers of global warming, poverty, and genocide. Work with our partners for equal rights regardless of race, gender, and sexuality. Encourage our members to hone the magic of their creativity in endeavoring to make the world a better place. Join our army to make the world a safer, more magical place, and let your voice be heard!

At the moment, the HPA has three projects on display on its main carousel: the Odds in Our Favor campaign against economic inequality; a petition to Warner Bros. to address alleged human rights violations in its production of official Harry Potter chocolates; and Esther Day, a holiday created to celebrate all types of love, not just the ooey-gooey Valentine’s Day kind.

"Aww, Jerry, come and look at --- hey, did they move?"

“Aww, Jerry, come and look at — hey, they weren’t like that before. … Jerry?”

If that’s not an impressive snapshat of the scope of their work, take a look at a few of their past successes:

  • They raised $123,000 for Partners in Health’s efforts in Haiti.
  • They’ve donated over 120,000 books to various causes, including 4,000 books to a youth center in Rwanda and over 9,000 books to a charter school in New York City.
  • In 2009, they contacted nearly 3,600 people in one day in an effort to stop marriage inequality in Maine.

With stories like these in my mind, I can’t help but laugh every time someone says dismissive things about Harry Potter fans — like they’re still eleven years old, dressed in too-big robes and spangled hats, jumping up and down in line at the bookstore. Some of us still are those kids at heart, and we will always hold those memories dear. But in our relationship with these books, we’ve picked up more along the way than a little Latin and mythology. We’ve also picked up lessons in loyalty, equality, friendship, love, courage, hard work, and forgiveness — and as the Harry Potter Alliance proves, those lessons are powerful indeed when put into practice.

So here’s to you, Harry Potter Alliance, for all of the wonderful projects you’ve done already and for those you still have ahead of you. You’re the embodiment of fan power at its best, and we can’t wait to see what you do next.

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Photo credits: Cheese man from romy52 and angels from UBodnar on Pixabay.

The Golden Toga Flap: John and Hank Green

[Note to audience: According to Wikipedia, citizens of ancient Rome used to wave their toga flaps to express approval for public performances. In the style of the Golden Globes, the Golden Raspberries, the Golden Goggles, and other alchemical plaudits, the Golden Toga Flap will be a regular feature on IWtSLtY that affirms people working to improve the world. Anyone is eligible: A-list actors, small children, teachers in rural Illinois, frat guys behind me in line at Grocery Outlet. I’m not writing these blurbs for any sort of commission; I just want to spread the word about great people doing lovely things. If you have nominations for the Golden Toga Flap, please feel free to leave them in the comments or send me a private message.]

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What do you get when you combine a nauseating number of Peeps, a blenderized Happy Meal, fourteen straight hours in Target, and discussions of the American health care system?

Besides something that shouldn’t be brought up at corporate networking events. That’s a given.

"This guy can eat 16 Peeps in four minutes. I really think Accounting

“Sir, this applicant can eat 16 Peeps in three minutes. I really think he’d be a valuable addition to the auditing team.”

Put it on YouTube, though, and it’s social media gold — funny, riveting, and surprisingly deep, especially when the Green brothers deliver it. Although the Vlogbrothers channel began in 2007, it didn’t cross my radar until February 2013, when my friend walked into my house, put her laptop in front of me, and said, “Watch this.” “This” was the episode in which John cooks dinner with his three-year-old son and discusses the political implications of celery sans peanut butter. When it was over, I knew that this was something I had to get on board with, so I started getting up to speed on the discussions, the punishments, and DFTBA. Since that introduction, the Green brothers and their supporting cast have taught me so much about world history, sexuality, epistemology, relationships, the importance of passion and collaboration, entrepreneurship, linguistics, social media, literature, statistics, economic disparity, and the mating habits of giraffes.

In lieu of giraffe copulation, please accept this picture of rabbits snuggling platonically.

In lieu of copulating giraffes, please accept this picture of rabbits snuggling platonically.

In retrospect, the Vlogbrothers channel couldn’t have come into my life at a better time — I was going through a breakup and rapidly approaching college graduation, with a jobless summer lurking on the horizon like the Black Gate of Mordor. At that point, John and Hank’s calm, reassuring humor was exactly what I needed to get me thinking about something bigger than myself.

"I'm never going to find a job, I'm going to die alone in a Dumpst --- holy cow, I can't *not* click on that."

“I’m never going to find a job, I’m hopeless, I’m going to die alone in a Dumpst — holy cow, I can’t not click on that.”

So here’s to you, John Green, Hank Green, and all your collaborative partners, making the world more awesome first through the simple project of Brotherhood 2.0, which blossomed into Nerdfighteria and snowballed from there into too many projects, collaborations, and sponsorships to count: the Project for Awesome, the Foundation to Decrease World Suck, DFTBA Records, VidCon, SciShow, and Crash Course, to name just a few. Your commitment to your art, to your families, to your fans, to education, to underrepresented communities, and to the world at large is nothing short of beautiful. Wherever you go next, however you next choose to express your creative enthusiasms, I have no doubt that your actions will continue inspiring people of all ages to value each other, ask difficult questions, and never stop having fun.

 

Photo credit: Corporate conversation and bunny rabbits from Pixabay; Vlogbrothers screencap from this episode on YouTube.