Overcoming Islamophobia

A few days following the Boston Marathon attacks a friend of mine posted a link to an article on Facebook. In the article it talked about various Muslims that had been attacked physically and verbally due to prejudice resulting from the Boston Marathon bombings. At the top of the article was a picture of a Muslim family posing at the Boston Aquarium. The father was smiling holding a baby while his wife leaned in close to him touching his arm beaming. They seemed like such a happy and golden family. The wife in this particular picture had been cussed out and called a terrorist as she took a walk with a friend. I wondered how could anyone in their right mind could go up to any woman and use such verbally abusive language against her. Thus, I began my journey to discover just how real Muslim prejudice is in our society and also to clear up my own misconceptions about that faith.

I don’t claim to be an expert on such a sensitive and controversial topic. Like you, I am appalled at what took place in Boston just two weeks ago and all murderous attacks throughout history. Just because you’re Muslim doesn’t mean you have automatically become a terrorist. In fact, just from talking with devout members of the Muslim faith the exact opposite is encouraged.

I talked with a Muslim teenage girl via Facebook named Hanane Mg in Chelghoum Laïd, Mila, Algeria who shared with me the story of a famous Egyptian Muslim scholar named Sheikh Shaarawi. He had a conversation one day with a radical Muslim man who believed it was okay to blow up an Egyptian night club. Sheikh Shaarawi asked the man, “What is the first mission of Satan?” The man replied, “To enter people to hell fire.” Sheikh Shaarawi then responded, “Then you are Satan. You kill people who do bad things to enter them to hell fire. Islam has never been about terrorism and killing non-Muslims. Islam is to invite those non-Muslims to repent to God and give them a chance to enter to paradise.” Hanane told me, “Muslims are never perfect like no human is. Everybody do mistakes whatever it is his religion, nationality, or color. We all do mistakes.”

I talked with a woman named Rahma Yassin who converted from Christianity to the Muslim faith several years ago in the United States. Her brother disowned her for converting. Yassin currently lives in Cairo, Egypt with her husband. She said, “I have no idea why any righteous Muslim would participate in such attacks on innocent people. The Qur’an clearly tells us that to kill one innocent is as if you killed all of mankind. I would not want that weight on my shoulders when I face Allah and I feel that any Muslim who truly believes in Allah and the Qur’an and is capable of critical thinking would not do such a heinous act as terrorism.”

Yet, because of two Muslim brothers from Kyrgyzstan more prejudice against Muslims or “Islamophobia” has increased here in the United States.

Islamophobia, according to Dictionary.com, is “Hatred or fear of Muslims or of their politics or culture.” It’s a phobia that has increased ever since the September 11th terrorist attacks in New York and Washington D.C.

I was at Sam’s Club shopping with my Mom two weeks ago. We were getting treats for a video game party I was hosting at home for members of my church congregation. I saw two Muslim families at the store. The two families I could see were anxious and were doing their best to avoid contact with anyone in the store, probably out of fear of any retaliation linked to the Boston Marathon bombings that had happened just four days earlier. I was in the Sam’s Club book section glossing over various books when a Muslim man from one of the families started looking at books. I commented to him, “I am having so much trouble deciding what book to get.” He was taken off guard and at first, I could see he wasn’t sure what to say. His face then broke into a smile and he said, “Yeah, me too.” I am guessing this poor man wasn’t used to Americans treating him nicely that week because of his faith. I told him to have a great day. He wished me the same and had the biggest smile. It made me wonder how many locals in Las Vegas had told him to have a great day. That man helped inspire me to do this post.

I don’t blame this Muslim man for being so scared to talk to a Caucasian such as myself. Muslims in recent years have been persecuted for their beliefs all over the world. Many have endured hardship of all kinds to loss of work, verbal abuse, injuries of all kinds, and sadly, for some, even losing their own lives. Islamophobia is real in our society and is occurring still all over the world.

Samyia Ahmed, a Muslim convert from Ireland, has endured discrimination firsthand for her faith. “I face daily abuse,” said Ahmed, “I have been physically abused and spat on.” Ahmed is careful bringing up her faith when applying for work. She has been refused work and told by potential employers that having her would be “bad for our image.” Ahmed travels often for her job. The airport is no different. “I travel a lot due to my work and at airports I am always searched thoroughly even when the scanner doesn’t go off,” said Ahmed. Her children also get bullied at their school. The bullying got so intense for her eldest son that he could not go outside their home for a whole year simply because he was Muslim. Noor Fah in the state of Illinois in the United States faced discrimination at her job at Taco Bell. Also a convert to the Muslim faith, Fah was disowned by her father for converting. In the Muslim faith, women are required to wear a veil or a “hijab” for modesty and as a commandment of God. Fah was not allowed to wear her hijab at Taco Bell while at work or even eating there. Defiant, Fah continued to wear it. One day, her employers changed her work schedule while she was out of town. Oblivious, Fah missed work and was subsequently fired. Despite this illegal action, Fah is still optimistic. “I’m better off,” said Fah.

So, what does Islamophobia have to do with you? Perhaps, you have this phobia like I did for a time. Recently, I have strived to learn more about the Middle East and the people in it. I have read books about what it’s like to live in that part of the world. I have talked with several Muslims and asked them difficult questions to clear up misconceptions I have. The Muslims I have talked to I have found weren’t defensive. They were willing to tell me all about their faith, send me links, and welcomed the opportunity to answer my questions. One even sent me the whole PDF version of the Qu’ran to my e-mail inbox in pure Arabic. They even called me, “Brother” even though we had never met face to face. I would like to thank Mrs. Heba Samy for helping me get these interviews. Without these interviews, most of my misconceptions would still be there and this post would have likely not been published.

I encourage you to learn of people you may not understand or even be intimidated by. You can never know how someone is until you ask them. Atticus Finch, the courageous lawyer in To Kill A Mockingbird who stood up for an innocent African American man framed for raping a white girl, said to his daughter Scout, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view . . . until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” Don’t allow your definition of a race or faith of people to be determined by the foolish actions of just a few. Learn of them and you will be surprised what you will find. Perhaps you will make a few new friends in the process like I did when researching for this post.

ImageThis photo was taken by Sarah Dziria in Medina, Saudi Arabia at the “Mosque of the Prophet” which is the second holiest sight of the Muslim faith.

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12 thoughts on “Overcoming Islamophobia

  1. BRAVO!!! Great article Zachary. Thanks again for taking the time to ask questions and understand. May you be an example to the world because this is how God intended it. He did not intend for us (humans) to hate, fight and kill each other. God tells us this in the Qur’an “O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).” (Qur’an 49:13)

    Like

  2. This is such a great article. I enjoyed reading it. It gave me some insights regarding how Islam is seen in the United States. I can say this is sad but hopefully, things will get better. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Zach.

    Like

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