Islamophobia- When Fear Diminishes Humanity

Olivia Booth

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.” -John Donne

On Friday, November 11th, Dilshad Ali, a Muslim woman, pulled into a Martin’s parking lot in Richmond, Virginia to shop for groceries when a man began yelling at her. Though she could not hear him, she could see that the words coming out of his mouth were hateful and religiously-charged. According to Ali who was wearing her hijab, “he obviously took offense at my look.”

To Ali, the hijab “is a symbol of modesty, and while modesty is not incumbent upon a cloth worn on our head, it is a way to be modest and keep in touch with our faith – at least it is for me.” However, to those ignorant of the religion and the culture associated with it, a hijab is reason enough to be afraid and hostile. In an age where fear diminishes humanity, minorities suffer injustices such as this often, but this does not mean that such behavior is to be tolerated.

Ali refuses to accept this world where the bad are encouraged and the good are blind.

“I was not shaken too much or scared by the incident. It takes a lot more to rattle me,” Ali says.  “These things are happening and will continue to happen in light of the election results and more. I feel like there is a segment of our population that is now emboldened to act in or speak in anger and hate, and I refuse to give into this kind of ‘new normal.’”

With the intense coverage of extremist Islam groups, such as ISIS, some believe that all Muslims practice their religion violently at the expense of others who do not practice the same religion. However, accusing all Muslims of being extremists is no more grounded in reason than the ‘red scare’. Of the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, perhaps less than 10,000 are involved in extremism. As Ali states, “We are a faith of billions, and the majority of us practice our faith in personal and peaceful ways. Painting an entire faith community by one brush – be it a hateful, violent brush or otherwise, is doing billions of folks a huge disservice.”

When we allow Islamophobia to fester, “we lose some of our ability to understand and learn and grow from each other and find our commonalities,” Ali believes. We as a nation can break free from these knowledge-prisons we put ourselves in by learning about that which is unfamiliar, whether it be a religion, a race, a socioeconomic background, or a culture.

This past election season saw many who tried to push their own agendas by preying on the insecurities of their fellow citizens. Above all else in this time, it is vital for us to retain the hope which the human race holds dear in the face of adversity. Ali, who has been persecuted for her own beliefs, remains with hope unshaken. “Being without hope is no way to live. I cannot tell others to regain hope or lose fear. Those feelings are real and legitimate. But there is only one way through life, and that is forward, one moment at a time, one day at a time, one week at a time and so on. Surround yourself with some positivity and love. It may start silly, but the best self-care is seeking out that which comforts you.”

Whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, a Christian or a Muslim, protest the mistreatment of any human being. If for no other reason, do it because you are a piece of the continent that is mankind.

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