opinion

COLUMN: Keeping our neighbors safe



If you’re not Muslim and/or if you don’t look like you might be Muslim, you have an important job to do.

It’s on you to help keep our Muslim neighbors safe.

This is not a safe time to be a Muslim in the United States. Anti-Muslim rhetoric from politicians, including Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, has created an environment in which bigots feel not only justified but even morally obligated to hate and attack Muslims.

It isn’t only right-wing politicians who have contributed to this atmosphere of hate. President Obama supports legislation that would restrict the visa waiver program for people who are considered citizens of certain Muslim-majority countries, even if they have never been there.

In the month since the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, there have been 34 acts of discrimination and hate crimes against Muslims in the U.S., according to BuzzFeed. In a six-day span alone, 19 hate crimes were reported, 
according to U.S. Uncut.

These attacks include threats to firebomb and “shoot up” mosques, verbal harassment and intimidation of individuals going about their daily lives, death threats (including against one of the only two Muslim members of Congress), vandalism, bombing and shooting.

Muslim women who cover are particularly vulnerable, since their religiously informed clothing choices make them highly visible targets. The night of the Paris attacks, a man shouted racial slurs and pushed a stroller into a pregnant woman’s abdomen in San Diego. The woman was wearing a hijab.

Even non-Muslims are being victimized. In California, a Sikh temple was vandalized by people too ignorant to comprehend that Sikhs are not Muslims and too full of hate to care.

Anyone with brown skin or who looks even slightly “foreign” is a potential target.

Do you remember reading about Kristallnacht in high school? Pogroms? It is no exaggeration to say that we’re not far from that.

So what can you do?

Speak up if you see someone being mistreated. The experience of two young American Muslim women who were verbally assaulted and told to “go back to Saudi Arabia” at Kerbey Lane Cafe in Austin, Texas, was made many times worse by the silence of the other patrons and the refusal of the waitstaff to publicly censure the man who insulted and 
harassed them.

One of the women, Sirat al-Nahi, wrote on Facebook, “As we turn to leave, Leilah, in tears, says, ‘Just go. Everyone knows we were told very racist things, and this restaurant doesn’t feel the need to address it because who cares about us?’ And somebody called out, ‘Nobody.’ And we left. Because it was true.”

Speak up if you hear anti-Muslim remarks. If you don’t look like you might be Muslim, people who harbor anti-Muslim sentiments will generally feel fairly comfortable sharing those views with you, assuming you will smile and nod in agreement.

Don’t agree, even tacitly through your silence. Don’t smile or nod. Tell them you don’t share their bigoted views. Try to clear up any misperceptions they might be expressing.

And inform yourself. Learn some basic information about Islam. There are numerous classes you could take at IU, but you could also just read a book (there are several good introductions to the religion available through the IU library) or get to know Muslims on campus. The IU Muslim Student Union often has events and seems full of friendly and welcoming people.

The more you know about Islam and Muslims, the better equipped you will be to shut down Islamophobic rhetoric when you hear it.

Together, we can help keep our Muslim neighbors safe.

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