In a Trump presidency, we must all be prepared and vigilant. Our civil rights and our freedoms, the institutions we all take for granted as Americans, may be in danger, if come January 2017, President-Elect Trump begins to fulfill his campaign promises. Top amongst those promises is serious and institutionalized discrimination against Muslims, although the specifics of the act are still unknown. Will it be a Muslim registry or a form of surveillance? Will it include extreme vetting of newly arrived immigrants? Will it be a ban on Muslim travelers?
As a Muslim, these and other questions keep me up at night. I know most American Muslims are feeling the same stress and anxiety. At the same time, my non-Muslim friends ask me what they can do to help, now and in the coming months. I appreciate the sentiment and wonder, myself, about what makes a good ally? Is it political action, social interaction or something else? Here are three ways to be a good Muslim ally:
1. Get to know a Muslim.
Research shows that the majority of Americans don’t know their Muslim neighbors, and attitudes are getting worse over the years. This is a sad state of affairs in any situation, but today these statistics can literally mean the difference between a safe society and living with fascism. Know that Muslims are your neighbors, your co-workers, your children’s friends, even the guy working at the local grocery store or the gas station. In a previous article, I explained how Muslims come in many colors and ethnicities, so don’t judge someone’s relationship based on their appearance. Instead do one of these:
- Visit a mosque to take a tour or ask questions. Most mosques are open to visitors and frequently hold community or interfaith events. Most mosque attendees are ecstatic that a non-Muslim will take the time to visit them and ask questions, rather than believe everything they hear in the news.
- Join an interfaith or intercultural organization in your community. This may take some investigating, but most cities or towns with sizeable Muslim populations have created interfaith programs. Ask the library, the community center, even your friends. If there isn’t one, start your own. All it takes is a few people of different religions to sit down and start a conversation.
- Invite a Muslim to speak to your church group or book club. Ask questions in a civil manner, and ask personal opinions or experiences. Every Muslim you talk to will be different — and very human, and that’s the most important lesson we can all learn from such meetings.
- Read a book about Islam or a novel written by a Muslim author, such as this list. Books will help you see the diversity of thought and action in the Islamic world and help you understand Muslims as people, not a monolith.
Civil liberty organizations are more essential than ever in a Trump presidency. Instead of worrying about what will happen, donate to causes that are professionally able to make sure your worst fears don’t come true. The American Civil Liberties Union, the Southern Poverty Law Center and other, similar organizations help Muslims and other minorities retain and fight for their rights according to the law.
If you want to help Muslims specifically, you could donate to Muslim civic organizations such as CAIR and M-Power, which work on discrimination cases for American Muslims. Other organizations to donate to include ING, whose speaker bureaus teach about Islam, to the Muslim Public Affairs Council, which helps Hollywood have better representation of Muslims in films and television shows.
3. Organize and speak out.
Currently, there is a tremendous fear about a possible Muslim registry, resulting in calls by non-Muslims to register as a protest and perhaps even a form of protection. While I think this is truly commendable, knowing the sort of heart-stopping connotation that a faith-based registry has in the minds of those who have lived through the Holocaust, I am not sure everybody registering is the right thing to do.
Firstly, such an action would be extremely difficult, if not impossible for our democratic system of government to pass without overthrowing the first amendment. But it would also signal that many of our most important institutions have already fallen. Rather than wait for such an event to occur, Muslim allies can help ensure that it never comes to pass at all, by becoming politically active:
- Call your local representatives to protest the appointment of Trump’s administration staff and leaders who have professed interest in a Muslim registry.
- Call your local Democratic leaders to urge them to fight for their rights of their Muslim constituents.
- Write articles, blogs or social media posts about the unconstitutionality of a registry and share widely on social media.
- Help those who don’t understand the gravity of the situation by sharing information about a possible registry and how it will affect American Muslims.
- If you hear about hate crimes, speak out against them. Sometimes they may happen in your children’s schools — SPLC reports that bullying minorities is at an all-time high — and parents are the only ones who can put pressure on school officials to take action.
Muslims need allies, and we are ready to be allies as well. Let’s get strong, fearless and work together to ensure that everyone has their civil liberties and basic human dignity in these trying times.