Especially for Muslims that have brown skin, wear a scarf, or have a name that is identifiably Muslim; these are hard times. The top contenders for the GOP presidential nomination have made statements that, at best, marginalize American Muslims and have incited some horrific incidents of Islamophobia across America recently. This is impacting Austin Muslims in very real ways, but sitting in that room of parents talking about how respond in ways that model our values to our children gave me much needed hope.
This week, I have also heard from non-Muslim friends; reaching out to offer a kind word in these times and asking how they can be supportive. Many of the same ideas the parent group came up with as their action items are the same that I would offer to anyone, regardless of religion, wanting to make the situation better during this challenging time.
Here are 3 things all Americans can do to right now:
1. Build bridges. Get to know people who are outside of your circle. Prejudice rarely survives experience, but over 75% of Americans do not have even one Muslim friend. Though many Muslims are feeling hesitant to reach out right now, it is important to do so. Either through formal events, like iACT’s interfaith events and the Muslims & Jewish Chinese Food Christmas lunch, or just connecting with a neighbor for coffee — extend an offer.
2. Don’t give in to fear. Fear turns into inaction and prevents us from moving forward as our best. Being kind to your neighbor and teaching your children to love others will help us to build the best world for all of us.
3. Speak up. When you hear bigoted, hateful, or misinformed speech regarding Muslims (or anyone!), say something! Have conversations with your children and those close to you about your values and how your values look when put into action.
The courage to stand out and stand up takes conviction. We have probably talked to our children about what to do if they are being bullied or see someone else be bullied, but as adults do we know what we would do as bystanders in a situation where someone is saying hateful things or being treated unfairly? One of my neighbors pointed out to me that if we do not prepare for those moments, then we sometimes respond with complicit silence.
Right now Muslims seem to be under the spotlight, but there have been other groups targeted in the past and there will likely be others in the future that face these challenges. Our responses today and tomorrow can always be to choose justice and kindness. Building bridges, not giving into fear and speaking up can bring us the future we need.