Standing With Our Muslim Neighbors: How You Can Be An Ally

Americans United partnered with the Bridge Initiative yesterday to host a Facebook Live discussion, “Standing With Our Muslim Neighbors.”

As reports continue that President Donald J. Trump any day could issue a new executive order restricting Muslim immigration and that anti-Muslim rhetoric and hate groups are increasing, we wanted to offer some practical suggestions on how you can be a good ally to the Muslim community.

“We know that Islamophobia has been extremely visible since the Muslim ban was announced,” said Erin Hagen, AU’s field associate, who emceed the discussion. “But [it] has long been present in the United States, and we really have a lot of work ahead of us to fight back against it.”

Kristin Garrity Şekerci, a research fellow with Georgetown University’s Bridge Initiative, offered several resources for how non-Muslims can learn more about Islam and how they can support the Muslim community.

“For me, I think the most important thing you can do and the best place to start is education, education, education,” said Sekerci.

Şekerci recommended reviewing the statistics on hate crimes against Muslims to understand the prejudice they face and looking to organizations that offer resources for combatting Islamophobia. Among them is the Bridge Initiative, which is based at Georgetown’s Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding; it combines research into Islamophobia with methods for addressing prejudice against the religion.

Other resources she suggested include South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT); Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR); the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC); the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU); the Center for American Progress; and the FBI’s Hate Crimes division.

Beyond that, Şekerci said getting to know Muslims is key: “You’re more likely to have more favorable views about Islam and Muslims if you know a Muslim personally.”

She recommended several books that provide personal narratives about Muslims in America: “Muslim Girl” by Amani Al-Khatahtbeh; “How Does It Feel to Be a Problem?: Being Young and Arab in America” by Moustafa Bayoumi; “Black Pilgrimage to Islam” by Robert Dannin; and “The Autobiography of Malcolm X,” as well as biographies of his widow, Betty Shabazz, and daughter, Ilyasah Shabazz.

Şekerci and Bill Mefford, AU’s faith organizer, both said amplifying positive stories about Muslims can help to counter the far right’s narrative that Muslims are a threat to the United States.

“As much as we can, advocate not only to the federal government to stop some of the things that they’re going to be trying to pass and the executive order, but advocate to the people within our contexts, within our communities, within especially our faith communities, and tell stories and use frameworks that are positive about Muslims and about the religion of Islam,” said Mefford. “I think that helps to push back against some of the negative stereotypes that unfortunately are being furthered in the media, but even more so by some of our elected leaders.”

“With this education in mind and this awareness of what’s happening, as an ally, do what you can do considering your resources, your skill sets … how much you’re able to donate perhaps, or show up with your body to make a change and stand united with Muslims,” said Şekerci. “I think the most heartening thing that I saw when the executive order was released, spontaneously across the country, people showed up and mobilized at airports. That was unprecedented.”

Among those mobilizing at airports the weekend after Trump’s first Muslim ban was announced on Jan. 27 was AU attorney Bradley Girard, who joined Wednesday’s discussion to offer an update on the two legal battles AU has joined to combat the ban in court.

“So the reason that we got involved in these lawsuits was because this is nothing more than bare religious discrimination. And that goes against everything we stand for at Americans United and that goes against the fundamental protections of the First Amendment,” Girard said. “We will continue to be involved in this fight. How we will continue to be involved really depends … on what the new executive order says.”

Check out the discussion. I think you’ll be impressed.