“Mister, please, a question: do most people in America think we’re all terrorists?”
His question caught me off guard. Up to that point, we were discussing his hometown of Mosul and life after ISIS, but maybe this was what he really wanted to talk about: how do people view Muslims?
We sat on his porch and he lit up another cigarette. His home is full of bullet holes and broken things, but his family all survived—they were lucky. The rotting body of an ISIS fighter stunk up the next street over as our teams unloaded food for thousands. His granddaughter snuggled up against him.
For half a second I honestly considered lying, but then I thought about days like today.
“Some do, yes,” I replied.
“Ahh…well, would you tell them we aren’t? The terrorists hurt us, too.”
Today is “Punish a Muslim Day.” You may not have known that’s a real thing, but for Muslims in places like the United States or the United Kingdom, it’s all too real. Anti-Muslim campaigners sent out leaflets and letters encouraging people to commit hate crimes and violence against Muslims in their community.
Here’s the point system they’ve worked out:
250 points for torturing a Muslim, 500 for butchering one.
“…do most people in America think we’re all terrorists?”
How would you have answered that man in Mosul if he asked you this question? On this day when Muslims are asking the same question, how will you answer them today?
You may think this is just a tiny percent of the population calling for attacks like this, and you may be right, but they still happen every year, every month, every week—Muslims around the world continue to pay for acts of terror they’ve denounced again and again and again.
So what can we do? Here are a few ways you and I can respond to Punish a Muslim Day:
- Acknowledge it. Don’t ignore it because it’s uncomfortable, and don’t downplay it because it seems far away. Acknowledge the ugliness of a campaign like this and decry it. You can start by sharing this post with your friends and offering a statement of solidarity with Muslims in your own community.
- Go outside. There are days when it’s great to stay home, relax, read a book, but today is not one of those days. Reach out to your Muslim neighbors and find out how you can support them. Contact a mosque and ask if anyone needs food delivered or if there are any solidarity events happening that day. Participate in one of the activities suggested by the #LoveAMuslimDay movement (see below), or learn about how you can stand with your Muslim neighbor on a daily basis.
Literally i got tears in my eyes after knowing about punish a muslim day!… We all are humans! Spread love not hate?….. #BanPunishAMuslimDay … On 3rd April, let’s celebrate #LoveAMuslimDay together!. We Muslims are not terrorists!. We are humans as you!. Please stop?? pic.twitter.com/U5fRRybckJ
— Dua (@Varun_Shraddha_) March 26, 2018
- Listen to all. While there may not be huge numbers of people ready to butcher a Muslim for 500 points, there are many sympathetic to the underlying reasoning of a day like today. Why is that? Why are growing numbers of people seeing Muslims as a threat? Do you really know? Days like today remind us that while we must stand in solidarity with threatened people like our Muslim friends and take a stand against hate, we can’t stop there—we must also love and seek to understand those doing the threatening, and that means listening to things that we may not agree with, maybe even make us angry. Because until someone empathetically listens and builds a relationship on which peace can be made, nothing is really going to change.
Have ideas for how others might get involved and love well on days like today? Have a story or an idea you want to pass on? Share below in the comment section, we’d love to hear from you!