Show forgiveness, enjoin what is good, and turn away from the foolish (i.e. don’t punish them). (Surat Al-A’raf 7:199)
The past few days have been hard on everyone surrounding me. My Muslim friends across the globe are hurt by the islamophobia that is spread rapidly following any terror attack. Our Syrian brothers and sisters in humanity are being told that they are unwelcome in the United States, regardless of the fact that they are living in clear and present danger. Many of my non-Muslim family and friends have been taking it upon themselves to defend Muslims against massive onslaught attacks both in face-to-face confrontations and on social media. Finally, hundreds of millions of people on this planet have found themselves trapped in the cycle of division, hatred, and fear.
Whenever a tragedy occurs, we are presented with an opportunity. We are given the opportunity to choose what side of the outcome that we want to perpetuate. Do we choose to fall into the cycle of division, hatred, and fear? I would suggest walking to the other side of this fence and choose to see the good, the unity, and the voices of justice that come from unexpected places.
I’ve had multiple relatives – including my own father – post insulting, erroneous, and over-generalized claims about Muslims over the past few days. Did you know that Muslims want to kill all of the Jews and Christians? Did you know that the refugees are just a smoke-screen for ISIS members to perforate U.S. border and take over the entire U.S. in one clean sweep?
Yeah, I didn’t know that either.
Some of those who came to the open defense of Muslims against these accusations were my brother, sister, aunt, and a friend from whom I’d have not expected it. I’ve seen them posting articles explaining why Islam does not condone ISIS, and how the collective punishment of Muslims (especially refugees) is wrong, on their own timelines and Twitter feeds. I’ve seen them engaging other people in their friend groups who have posted fearful propaganda and false information. In short – I’ve seen them standing in front, taking a bullet meant for me.
I’m one of those people who likes to be right. Doesn’t everyone? One of the lessons I am working on within myself is letting go and not engaging in the foolish and ignorant. There are those whose hearts are good and open, and there are those who will never hear a word I say. When it comes to tragic times like the present, my personal struggle is to say what is necessary to be said, drop the subject, and move on. Our time is precious here on earth. While we can perform a sort-of social media jihad* to diffuse wrongful thoughts on Islam and Muslims, we can also go out into the world with our heads held high.
When we go about our daily lives in tumultuous times, we are doing exactly what extremists despise. We’re ignoring them and delegitimizing their power. We’re living our lives and showing everyone we encounter in passing that we are human beings that deserve respect. We can show the world that our Ummah** produced kind, polite, and loving citizens. I’ll leave you with a positive note: While I was out shopping today in my long purple dress and scarf with purple roses, I paused to hold open the door for an elderly couple. The woman smiled widely and said, “thank you dear! I’m glad you paused, because I want to tell you that I love your outfit. That’s my favorite color!” Her simple compliment shines over all of the ignorance I have had directed at me over the past few days. She didn’t see the headscarf, she didn’t see the Muslim – she simply saw her favorite color.
Ya Allah, the world is a place where we can see the good, the bad, and the ugly. Let us be of those who seek out the pure hearts – the ones who spread kindness and love. Let us forgive our enemies for their actions, while actively opposing their wretchedness with our ability to act in goodness. Let us all turn away from the foolish and find comfort in Your words, in Your mercy. Ameen.