Almost daily there are news reports of hate crimes against Muslims in the United States, the United Kingdom and elsewhere, as well as news of mass terrorist attacks against Muslims in countries like Iraq, Turkey and Bangladesh. Imam Khalid Latif reflects in this article originally published on CNN.
This morning, I woke up to images and stories outlining numerous hate crimes taken place against Muslims in cities throughout the United States just in the last 10 hours. Two Muslim teenagers assaulted in Brooklyn, New York outside of a mosque while the assailant called them “terrorist”, a Muslim doctor ambushed and shot in Houston Texas by three men as he went for morning prayers, and another Muslim beaten in Fort Pierce Florida right outside of an Islamic Center there. These are just the stories reported and that took place less than a day ago. That’s in addition to so many more reported over the last weeks and months, and so many more that just aren’t reported.
Don’t Be A Passive Bystander
If you see something, say something has to mean something different to us today. If you see bigotry, say something. If you see hatred, say something. If you see racism, say something. You and I have to be the change that this world needs. We cannot adopt a bitterness or passivity that lets people who have no interest other than their own self-interest succeed
A failure to acknowledge and deal with illness doesn’t mean that it’s not there. I can pretend like I’m not sick, but my body will let me know otherwise. We can pretend like our society is not in pain and in need of healing, but atrocities like those that took place just even last night will let us know otherwise. The anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States isn’t just rising, it’s really high. An unwillingness and indifference on the part of individuals and institutions to put it in check is a large part of the problem.
Our Sense of Compassion Is Being Obliterated
Our indifference to the narratives of those distinct from our own coupled with our own egocentric priorities places us in the reality that we find ourselves in. Issues of race, class and privilege are the roots of our ailments, and an unwillingness to recognize it is leading us to a terrible place. With every assault, every hate crime, every death, our sense of compassion is being obliterated. With every failure to remedy injustice, we add to the pain. These assailants knew that they were going to attack Muslims. They knew they would find them at the mosques at those specific times. For what reason then with will there be a hesitancy in labeling their actions as anything but a hate crime?
More likely than not we won’t see an outcry against these actions by political leaders of any kind. There will be a continued utilization of Islam as a political football by those who have no real interest in anything other than their own self-interest. Letting hate prevail seemingly didn’t work as a solution to stopping hate, but seemingly that isn’t an issue.
In my opinion if you don’t speak out against it you’re just as bad as the person who is saying it in the first place. What do you think it teaches people when senior officials of major political parties throughout the country are either espousing, and in turn justifying, hatred against Muslims through their words or their silence? What does it teach a broader society about the worth and designation of a population that is over 1.5 billion in number throughout this world?
What Message Are We Sending Out?
The same thing that it teaches the broader society when mosques are kept from being open and built, when unjust surveillance and profiling policies are legitimized and implemented, when media has no problem making cursory links of every and any Muslim to terrorism, but dig deep to connect people of other backgrounds to troubled childhoods and mental health issues, and when politicians are allowed to build racist campaign platforms taking advantage of fear and ignorance. It teaches them that it’s ok for Muslims to be treated differently, to in fact be mistreated, simply because they are Muslim, and that there is no problem with that.
There is, in fact, a huge problem with it.
This Isn’t Just A Muslim Thing
If you think my anger and frustration is only because that there were Muslims who were attacked, then you don’t get it. I feel for these people because they are people. I feel for these people as I feel for Orlando. I feel for these people as I feel for Baltimore, Ferguson and Chicago. I feel for these people as I feel for Turkey, Bangladesh, Iraq and Syria. I feel for these people as I feel for anyone who finds themselves in any type of affliction or conflict. We have seen minorities of all backgrounds get vilified more and more and things have gotten to a point where assaults and even death doesn’t bring about a recognition of their value as humans. We have seen shooting after shooting take place in this country, increasing directly along with our country’s legislators unwillingness to speak about gun control. My anger and frustration stems from the fact that with every act of hatred and our failed responses to it, indifference is becoming more alive and in the process our shared humanity is dying.
Will there be droves of leaders marching in the streets, elbowing each other to make sure they stand at the front of the pack and let the world know that they are outraged by the assaults on Muslims throughout the country? Will they hold vigils to speak out against the realities of hate and address the deeper, systemic issues around race, ethnicity and privilege or even give a simple nod to the signs and symptoms around us indicating their existence? Probably not. But will you stand up, simply because you are able to and it’s the right thing to do?
I am a Muslim. I work as the University Chaplain for New York University. I serve as a Chaplain for the New York City Police Department and am given the rank of inspector. I have traveled on behalf of the State Department, met with the heads of homeland security, senior white house officials and even President Obama himself, shared stages with the likes of Pope Francis and the Dalai lama. I am still one of the many Muslims in this country who have been detained, profiled and surveilled. My home has been visited by the FBI on numerous occasions where I have been told that I am being watched because I am too good to be true. As much as I am seen as antidote, I am first still seen as a poison for no other reason that I choose to practice the faith that I do. That is not ok. But I still believe that we can and will be better.
Be The Change You Want To See
Healing requires admitting we are sick. You and I are a bigger part of the cure than we might realize. On the eve of our Independence Day, we as a nation have a choice to make. At a time when we are still debating whether Black Lives Matter or not, candidates for the highest offices of our land make statements that indicate they speak for and to only a select group of Americans. We can no longer let our perspectives of each other be fueled through a media machine that seeks to sensationalize and bombard readers and viewers with narrative that serves to only segment and antagonize even further. The amplification of extreme voices has to be drowned out by our coming together. The ignorance of ISIS or the Republican right can no longer be the basis of how we function in diverse societies. We must learn the reality of struggles faced by those around us by actually being with them, as opposed to simply through the biased images that are cast in front of us every day. We do not have to be women to stand up women’s rights, black to stand up for black rights, or Muslim to stand up for Muslim rights. An attack on any of us is an attack on all of us. I said it before and I’ll say it again, if you see something, say something has to mean something different to us today. If you see bigotry, say something. If you see hatred, say something. If you see racism, say something. You and I have to be the change that this world needs. We cannot adopt a bitterness or passivity that lets people who have no interest other than their own self-interest succeed. We cannot lose hope – tomorrow will be better than today so long as you do our part. Our coming together of today is only meaningful if we continue to come together tomorrow. Let us be the reason that people have continued hope in this world, and never the reason people dread it.
Resources for seekers:
- Paris Attacks: Response and Responsibility
- Afraid to get groceries? On being a woman in turbulent times
- “Be Unapologetically Muslim No Matter What”
- Finding Safety and Solace in the Sunnah
- “Our hearts are with all who are suffering in California”
- What Is the Meaning of the Hadith “Ruined Are the Extremists”?
- ISIS, Sex Slaves and Islam – reflections from Imam Zaid Shakir
- Helping our children find the light in dark times
- The threat to religious guidance
- “Peace is always in the middle, never at the extremes”
- Fatwa Against Terrorism and the Targeting Of Civilians
- Khawarij Ideology, ISIS Savagery
- Humanity before Religiosity
- On War & Beheading: How ISIS Manipulates Hadiths
- This is not the path to paradise, advice from Shaykh Abdullah bin Bayyah
- Injustice Cannot Defeat Injustice
- On the mass murder of Coptic Christians by ISIS
- Islam vs. ISIS: A Letter to Baghdadi from Leading Scholars
- Clarity in Crisis: How Believers Look at Trials and How they Respond, Guided by Prophetic Light
- Striking Necks: It Must Be the Kharijites!
- Anger, Restraint, Wisdom and the Prophetic Message in Our Times
- Explaining the Chapel Hill shooting to children
- Six Reasons Why the Fort Hood Killings by Nidal Hasan Are Clearly Impermissible (Haram) in Islamic Law
- Help Us End Extremism and “Ugly Islam”