Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Sofia Ali-Khan: Dear Non-Muslim Allies

I am writing to you because it has gotten just that bad. I have found myself telling too many people about the advice given to me years ago by the late composer Herbert Brun, a German Jew who fled Germany at the age of 15: “Be sure that your passport is in order.” It’s not enough to laugh at Donald Trump anymore. The rhetoric about Muslims has gotten so nasty, and is everywhere, on every channel, every newsfeed. It is clearly fueling daily events of targeted violence, vandalism, vigilante harassment, discrimination.

I want you to know that it has gotten bad enough that my family and I talk about what to keep on hand if we need to leave quickly, and where we should go, maybe if the election goes the wrong way, or if folks get stirred up enough to be dangerous before the election. When things seem less scary, we talk about a five or a ten year plan to go somewhere where cops don’t carry guns and hate speech isn’t allowed on network television.

And if you don’t already know this about me, I want you to know that I was born in this country. I have lived my whole life in this country. I have spent my entire adult life working to help the poor, the disabled and the dispossessed access the legal system in this country. And I want you to know that I am devoutly and proudly Muslim.

I am writing this in response to a non-Muslim friend’s question about what she can do. Because there is much that can be done in solidarity:

If you see a Muslim or someone who might be identified as Muslim being harassed, stop, say something, intervene, call for help.

If you ride public transportation, sit next to the hijabi woman and say asalam ‘alaykum (That means ‘peace to you.’). Don’t worry about mispronouncing it; she won’t care. Just say “peace” if you like. She’ll smile; smile back. If you feel like it, start a conversation. If you don’t, sit there and make sure no one harasses her.

If you have a Muslim work colleague, check in. Tell them that the news is horrifying and you want them to know you’re there for them.

If you have neighbors who are Muslim, keep an eye out for them. If you’re walking your kids home from the bus stop, invite their kids to walk with you.

Talk to your kids. They’re picking up on the anti-Muslim message. Make sure they know how you feel and talk to them about what they can do when they see bullying or hear hate speech at school.

Call out hate speech when you hear it—if it incites hatred or violence against a specified group, call it out: in your living room, at work, with friends, in public. It is most important that you do this among folks who may not know a Muslim.

Set up a “learn about Islam” forum at your book club, school, congregation, dinner club. Call your state CAIR organization, interfaith group or local mosque and see if there is someone who has speaking experience and could come and answer questions about Islam and American Muslims for your group. They won’t be offended. They will want the opportunity to do something to dispel the nastiness.

Write Op-Eds and articles saying how deplorable the anti-Muslim rhetoric has gotten and voice your support for Muslim Americans in whatever way you can.

Call your state and local representatives, let them know that you are concerned about hate speech against your Muslim friends and neighbors in politics and the media, that it is unacceptable and you want them to call it out whenever they hear it, on your behalf.

Out yourself as someone who won’t stand for Islamophobia, or will stand with Muslims—there is an awful lot of hate filling the airways, and there are an awful lot of people with access to the media and/or authority stirring the pot about Muslims. Please help fill that space with support instead. Post, write, use your profile picture or blog to voice your support.

Ask me anything. Really. Engage the Muslims in your life. Make sure you really feel comfortable standing for and with your Muslim friends, neighbors, co workers.

I can tell you that in addition to the very real threat to their civil and human rights that Muslims are facing, we are dealing with a tremendous amount of anxiety. While we, many of us, rely on our faith to stay strong, we are human. This is not an easy time. What you do will mean everything to the Muslim Americans around you. Thank you for reading and bless you in your efforts. Share freely.

Sofia Ali-Khan is a public interest lawyer and writer. She has worked as an attorney for Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, Prairie State Legal Services in Illinois, and the American Bar Association. She has practiced in the areas of welfare law, medicaid access, immigrant access to public benefits, immigration, zoning and licensing, and Language Access under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.

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4 comments on “Sofia Ali-Khan: Dear Non-Muslim Allies

  1. owningmychristianity
    October 13, 2016

    As a Christian Jamaican, my heart breaks and my eyes well up with tears while reading this article. We don’t have to agree on theology but I respect and love you. Thanks for the perspective.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Milton B. Ulger
    March 8, 2016

    Sofia,

    A “phobia”‘ is a baseless fear. Fear of Islam in the Western world has emerged because of real events and issues, and is not baseless. Although one can certainly believe you personally are a woman of peace, how do you explain that over 10% of Muslems worldwide support violent Jihad? How do you explain the many leaders of your faith supporting violence and are teaching the same? How do you explain that in the name of Islam, murder, mayhem and the resulting terror and fear has taken over much of the world’s Christian population in 2016?

    Maybe you should spend more time condemning the hijacking of your religion. It might help quell the fear and anxiety many in our country honestly feel.

    Like

    • Vox Populi
      March 8, 2016

      Milton, the exact same accusations could be leveled at the Christian and Jewish religions. They have both been hijacked by extremists who use scripture as an excuse for violence and oppression.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. tmezpoetry
    March 7, 2016

    Dear Muslim Friend,

    I stand with you.

    Tammy~

    Liked by 1 person

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