Fear in America

7 Ways People Are Fighting Back Against Islamophobia - And How You Can Too

Standing up to xenophobia and racism in a time of fear.

A resurgence in Islamophobia in North America and Europe in the wake of the Paris Attacks on November 13th is more fierce, naked, and mainstream than even the most cynical among us could have predicted. The leading GOP candidate said he wanted to require Muslims to carry ID’s and pushed for more spying on mosques, hate crimes targeting Muslims have spiked, and a series of “anti-Islam” protests and episodes of harassment and stalking have taken place across the United States. While documenting the surge of bigotry is important, so too is noting the efforts made by activists, media, politicians from all faiths - and no faith - to combat this latest spasm of vitriol.

Here are those using their time and forum to stand up for tolerance in the face of the post-Paris panic and fear:

Rallies from Texas to San Diego

In response to recent “anti-Islam” rallies and assaults, grassroots efforts from around the country have responded with counter protests to combat what one organizer called “hateful demonstrations by armed bigots.”

One Muslim group in San Diego responded to alleged Islamophobic attacks on a Muslim woman at San Diego State by putting on a rally that attracted students and faculty from across the religious and ideological spectrum. Organizers have put together a counter demonstration in Irving, Texas after armed “protesters” stalked Muslims outside a Mosque to combat what they called “Islamification”. A group in Dearborn, Michigan - a city that’s 30% Muslim - staged a rally against ISIS and Islamophobia Friday saying that Muslims were,  “victims twice -- by Islamophobia and ISIS.”

Liberal media does its job - pushes back against worst rightwing tropes

Yes, the media doesn't alway suck. In fact, on the issue Islamophobia two, outlets in particular have been very good: Vox and MSNBC. Both typically align with the Democratic Party and on the issue of Islamophobia, the Democratic party is lightyears better than the Republicans. Vox and MSNBC have been working overtime to debunk Islamophobic rumors, canards, and disinformation in an easy-to-understand, digestible manner. The Washington Post's Ishaan Tharoor has also done a fantastic job drawing urgent parallels between the anti-Semitism and the red scare of America in the 1930's with today's moral panic over Muslims and ISIS.

Canadians speak out after wave of anti-Muslim attacks

Canada has seen a uniquely bad run of attacks. A mosque in Peterborough was set on fire, a Montreal man was arrested for posting a video wearing a Joker mask and threatening to kill an Arab per week, and A Muslim woman was beaten near an elementary school in Toronto. In response to these episodes, activist group Generation Y Not released a video of solidarity against Islamophobia that's since gone viral, garnering 190,000 views:

City councils make clear: "refugees welcome here"

One of the more vulgar aspects of the post-Paris panic is the effect on Syrian refugees who have come under fire from the American right - and sometimes left- for allegedly being potential ISIS members. Governors from over 30 states have “halted” any refugees from Syria with major politicians such as Jeb Bush suggesting only Christian Syrians should be welcomed. While state leaders shriveled in fear, some local governments reiterated their stance that “refugees were welcome”. Indeed, Chicago's city council used their considerable sway to pressure Illinois Republican governor Bruce Rauner to accept more refugees, telling the Chicago Tribune, "Refugees are people who are fleeing persecution...they're trying to get away from people who are threatening to kill them, persecuting them, torturing them, putting them in jail and kidnapping them."

Leading Democrats draw the line in the sand

While the GOP has fallen over itself to exploit the Paris attacks and ratchet up fear both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have taken time out to criticize the wave of Islamophobia. While it should be noted, both are in favor of bombing a Muslim country (Syria), when it comes to rhetoric stateside, they and other leading Democrats, including President Obama, have come out forcefully in favor of refugee immigration and against Anti-Muslim backlash. Since there’s not much upside to defending religious minorities, this, in and of itself, deserves praise.

Social Media

It may be hip to mock "slacktivists" speaking out on social media but even small gestures, when combined with other small gestures, can help stymied the rising tide of bigotry; certainly if one can learn hate on social media, one can learn a bit of tolerance as well. In the immediate aftermath of the Paris attacks the hashtag #IamMuslim and #MuslimsAreNotTerrorists were popular among Western Muslims to convey their sympathy with the victims and denounce ISIS. While Muslims certainly aren't obligated to condemn that for which they have no part, many do largely as a defense mechanism and to guard against potential blowback from bigots who won't be sophisticated enough to draw such distinctions. Twitter, once again, has provided a nice counter-narrative to corporate media's normally panicked post-terror playbook.

British Muslim teen offers "free hugs"

16-year-old Yusf Pirot, upset at the negative reactions to Muslims after the Paris attacks, set out to subvert people's expectations and made a viral video (that has since gotten over 2 million views) of him soliciting random hugs from strangers in Nottingham, UK. It's a courageous bit of street art you should see for yourself. It shows that it's easy to hate media-fed Muslim "evildoer" stereotypes, but when confronted by a real person on the street exposing himself in a moment of shared grief, suddenly things become much more complicated. 

What can you do to help?

Anti-Islamophobia advocates Roqayah Chamseddine and Imraan Siddiqi prepared this simple infographic explaining how you can do your part. It boils down to reaching out to local Muslim leaders and asking them how you can support their efforts, calling out hate speech when you hear it, and confronting everyday interpersonal bigotry:

 

 

Adam Johnson is a contributing analyst at FAIR and contributing writer for AlterNet. Follow him on Twitter @AdamJohnsonNYC.

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