Love in the Time of Mania: Six Ways Americans Are Defying Islamophobia
If you watch the news, you'd think anti-Muslim hysteria is everywhere. Thankfully, that's not true.
Love in the Time of Mania: Six Ways Americans Are Defying Islamophobia
By Nur Lalji /

On Dec. 8, a man identified as Piro Kolvani reportedly walked into the Fatima Food Mart, in Queens, New York, yelled that he was going to kill Muslims, and began punching the store’s owner, 53-year-old Sarker Haque. A customer restrained Kolvani until police arrived.

The attack is being investigated as a hate crime and, in the wake of terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, there has been a surge of similar assaults on Muslims.

On Nov. 19, a sixth-grade girl in New York was attacked by three of her classmates, who allegedly called her “ISIS.” On Dec. 6, someone left a pig’s head outside the Al-Aqsa Islamic Society in Philadelphia. According to Muslim Advocates, an organization fighting discrimination against American Muslims, more than 30 incidents of anti-Muslim hate crime have occurred since the Paris attacks in November and the San Bernardino attack in December. As the people in San Bernardino and Paris deal with a very real grief, it’s clear that these events have led to a heightened fear of Muslims—and some politicians are adding fuel to the fire.

On Dec. 7, Donald Trump called for “a complete shutdown of Muslims in the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” In support of Trump’s proposal, New Hampshire State Representative Al Baldasaro compared it favorably to the imprisonment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

Although many have criticized Trump’s remarks—according to the White House, his statements disqualify him from becoming president—it’s still easy to feel a sense of bleakness about being a Muslim in this country following the events that have happened in the past few months.

As a Muslim, I find it upsetting to feel that the actions of a few people may affect the way people view my family, my friends, or myself. And my non-Muslim friends, too, feel disheartened by what recent events could mean for the future. 

There are, however, many people who are determined to spread peace and understanding in the wake of these attacks.  Here are six different ways people are combating Islamophobia across the country.

1. Muslims lead peace rallies

On Nov. 27, in Dearborn, Michigan, Muslim protestors—calling themselves Dearborn Muslims Against Terrorism—held a demonstration outside the Henry Ford Centennial Library. Members of the group called for peace and support for the Syrian refugees. They also pointed out that ISIS makes up a minute fraction of Muslims worldwide.

Hundreds of Muslims also held an antiterrorism rally in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 6. Many held signs expressing solidarity with the victims of the San Bernardino attacks and opposition to ISIS, while others served food.

On Dec. 11, the Pakistani American Society of South Jersey led a peace rally outside Philadelphia’s city hall. “I thought that a rally would give an opportunity to all of us to share our grief … we hold in our sympathies and prayers the innocent victims of such heinous acts,” Owais Lari, the organization’s president, said, “We stand united with the rest of the country and promote tolerance.”

Lari hopes that, in addition to showing solidarity with the victims of the San Bernardino attack, the rally will also challenge the stereotypical portrayal of Muslims in the media. “I am not aware of any other country that has allowed immigrants to feel at home and become proud Americans. We feel great in showing our allegiance to America and pray to God to bless America and its people.”

2. Students embrace Muslims

Following Donald Trump’s call to ban all Muslims from entering the United States, Muslim students at the University of Virginia decided to fight Islamophobia through hugs. Muskan Mumtaz and a few of her classmates stood in front of the university’s Garrett Hall on Dec. 7 and 8, wearing blindfolds and holding signs that read, “Hug a Muslim.” Mumtaz estimates that around 100 people participated each day.

Mumtaz, who studies history and religion at U.Va., was inspired by similar events that took place in Europe. “I thought it would be a simple yet effective way to tackle Islamophobia in my immediate community,” she said. “I wanted my peers to realize that Muslim Americans are not an ‘other,’ and that we do not fall outside the American community. We’re your doctors, your lawyers, your teachers. The United States is and always will be our home, simple as that.”

For Mumtaz, a refugee from Kashmir, these events have had a personal resonance. “I understand the types of situations these people are fleeing from,” Mumtaz said. “What Carson and Trump don’t seem to realize is that refugees are the primary victims of Islamic extremism, and to turn them away on the basis of their religion is not only unconstitutional but also inhumane.”

3. Hashtags take off

Many Muslims displayed their solidarity for the victims of recent terror attacks through Twitter. Hashtags like #NotinMyName and #TerrorismHasNoReligion resurfaced after the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, while #YouAintNoMuslimBruv began to trend following the stabbing attacks in Leytonstone, England.

4. Muslims United for San Bernardino raises $177,000

In response to the San Bernardino attacks, Dr. Faisal Qazi launched a fundraising campaign through LaunchGood. “We wish to respond to evil with good, as our faith instructs us, and send a powerful message of compassion through action,” the campaign description reads.

Qazi began the fundraising campaign as a local initiative, but people across the country have donated. The initial goal was to raise $50,000, with the intention of using the money to assist with the short-term needs of victims’ families, but given the overwhelming support they have received—so far $177,680—they may be able to help even more than they had anticipated.

According to the campaign description, the money could also be used for long-term expenses of the families or a donation to the regional center where the attack took place.

 5. Jews speak up on Chanukah

During each night this Chanukah, activists from Jewish Voices for Peace are participating in public actions across the country to challenge Islamophobia and ask that the United States welcome refugees.

In New York City, activists will gather at Rockefeller Center for each of the eight days of Chanukah. Actions are also happening in 15 other cities, including Atlanta, Seattle, New Haven, Connecticut, Columbus, Ohio, and Portland, Oregon.

The activists will hold candle-shaped signs with eight different statements that will together form a menorah. Their commitments include an end to racist policing, a condemnation of surveillance against Muslims, and a welcome to Syrian refugees.

“We understand that the ongoing violence against Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim takes place in the context of ongoing and systemic Islamophobia and racism that are pervasive and deep within our society,” Elly Bulkin of Jews Against Islamophobia and the Network Against Islamophobia is quoted as saying on the event’s page.

6. Solidarity pops up all over

In Fargo, North Dakota, Shinwar Mayi and his former English teacher created a Facebook group on Dec. 5, called “Fargo-Moorhead Muslims and Friends Against ISIS.”  The group works to correct misconceptions about Islam and refugees—and it already has more than a thousand members.

Members of the group post about community events, political news, and stories of peace triumphing over Islamophobia.

Interfaith leaders across the country have also held prayer services and vigils for the Muslim community. On Dec. 10, community leaders stood together in Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Square, while on the same day in Columbus, Ohio, interfaith leaders gathered at the First Congregational Church to show their support for the Muslim community.

The Trinity Lutheran Church in Lynnwood, Washington, is holding an interfaith event on Dec. 14 entitled, “Love in a Time of Fear: Muslims and Christians as Good Neighbors.”

“Love is not having positive feelings, but rather the act of seeking the well-being of your neighbor,” says the event’s webpage.

The Church has arranged for several speakers to talk on different subjects, including respecting the civil rights of all people, including Muslims, and resisting stereotyping and internalizing the media narrative of Muslims and terrorism.

Nur Lalji wrote this article for YES! Magazine. Nur is a contributor based in the Seattle area. Follow her on Twitter at @nuralizal.
0.0 ·
What's Next
Trending Today
Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)
David Cain · 36,160 views today · Well I’m in the working world again. I’ve found myself a well-paying gig in the engineering industry, and life finally feels like it’s returning to normal after my nine months...
Dinosaur explains Trump policies better than Trump!
8 min · 15,299 views today · Donald Trump is actually the corporate triceratops, Mr. Richfield, from the 90's TV show sitcom, "Dinosaurs". 
Noam Chomsky Has 'Never Seen Anything Like This'
Chris Hedges · 9,599 views today · Noam Chomsky is America’s greatest intellectual. His massive body of work, which includes nearly 100 books, has for decades deflated and exposed the lies of the power elite...
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 3,432 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
Why I Didn't Vote Trump or Hillary
Joe Brewer · 3,320 views today ·   This is my ballot. It arrived in the mail where I live in Washington state — and I’ve already sent it back to the elections committee. Note how I didn’t vote for either...
How Big Banks Launder Money and Get Away With It
9 min · 3,290 views today · 'I wrote about how money laundering was actually done... they spiked it.' Parliamentary Candidate David Malone was a popular second choice in the UK Green Party leadership...
Heartbreaking Animation Reveals Plight of Animals Under Threat of Extinction
3 min · 2,723 views today · This stunning and heartbreaking animation gives voice to animals under threat from human activity. Made as part of the Wildlife Conservation Film Festival, it features a...
Three Massive Mergers - Millions for One Bank and a Disaster for Food, Water, and Climate
Wenonah Hauter · 2,645 views today · In addition to advising on all three mega-mergers, Credit Suisse is playing a big role behind the scenes of the Dakota Access pipeline.
A Beautiful Reflection on What It Means to Be Human
8 min · 1,736 views today · Hello! We are Oh Wonder, a musical duo from London. We believe that everyone is equal. We are all human. We all deserve the world. And we can build that equality by sharing...
What Makes Call-Out Culture So Toxic
Asam Ahmad · 1,607 views today · Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and...
Donald Trump Is the Mirror and Hillary Clinton Is the Mask
Chris Agnos · 1,022 views today · Disclaimer: I do not support Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton for president. I think the scope of the political debate is far too narrow for the kinds of actions that need to...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 977 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
HyperNormalisation (2016)
161 min · 804 views today · We live in a time of great uncertainty and confusion. Events keep happening that seem inexplicable and out of control. Donald Trump, Brexit, the War in Syria, the endless...
10 Quotes From an Oglala Lakota Chief That Will Make You Question Everything About Our Society
Wisdom Pills · 706 views today · Luther Standing Bear was an Oglala Lakota Sioux Chief who, among a few rare others such as Charles Eastman, Black Elk and Gertrude Bonnin occupied the rift between the way of...
Schooling the World (2010)
66 min · 619 views today · If you wanted to change an ancient culture in a generation, how would you do it? You would change the way it educates its children. The U.S. Government knew this in the 19th...
The White Man in That Photo
Riccardo Gazzaniga · 604 views today · Sometimes photographs deceive. Take this one, for example. It represents John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s rebellious gesture the day they won medals for the 200 meters at the...
The Burden of the New Story
Adebayo Akomolafe · 500 views today · The 'new story' - that longed for milieu when all is right with the world and things are set straight - seems to be taking its sweet time coming. Why?
The Top 100 Documentaries We Can Use to Change the World
Films For Action · 449 views today · A more beautiful, just and sustainable world is possible. Take this library and use it to inspire global change!
Donald and Hobbes Is Genius
Various · 418 views today · Some clever folk have been replacing precocious 6-year-old Calvin, from the Calvin and Hobbes comic strips, with Donald Trump and the results are, well, take a look...
Speaking Out Against Australia's Unforgiving Refugee Policy
42 min · 395 views today · The Forgotten Children: More than a hundred child refugees are stuck in asylum limbo on the island of Nauru as a result of Australia's harsh and unsympathetic border policies...
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
Love in the Time of Mania: Six Ways Americans Are Defying Islamophobia