In these times of rising anti-Muslim sentiment, how can Quakers demonstrate our spiritual conviction of equality?
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- What do you know about the Muslim population in your area? How might you learn more about them and what can you do to reach out and support them in this challenging time?
- Naveed Moeed says, “Friends reach out. They take care. They are custodians. They bring love where they go. As Quakers, we are deeply called to react against hate emanating from within our society.” Does this resonate with you? What does it mean for how your Quakerism manifests in the world?
Naveed Moeed: There is a reason we are called the Society of Friends. Friends reach out. They take care. They are custodians. They bring love where they go. As Quakers, we are deeply called to react against hate emanating from within our society.
What Can Quakers Do to Combat Islamophobia?
Layla Razavi: In general, I am fairly conscious of my identity as somebody who is Middle Eastern, whose family is Muslim, and I’m very conscious of how and when I present that identity. So especially if I’m going through an airport or riding on a plane, I’m pretty aware of whether I have a book that has Arabic script on it.
I remember a flight attendant once asked me, she complimented my necklace and it had an Allah symbol on it and it had the prophets listed in Farsi, or in Arabic writing, and she asked me if it said my name, and I said no and she asked what it said. And I froze a little bit because I felt so uncomfortable, and I thought, “Is she going to call security on me? Am I allowed to answer honestly?” And I find myself always navigating those places with some trepidation.
What is Islamophobia?
Raed Jarrar: Islamophobia is a term that was coined a few years back to describe anti-Muslim sentiments. It’s not really just Islamophobia. it’s more anti-Islam sentiments and anti-Muslim hatred. So “Islamophobia” makes it feel like, you know, some people in the US try to avoid Muslims or Islam. It’s more pro-active, destructive forces that try to kill, and discriminate, and destroy Muslims whether they’re inside the U.S. or abroad.
So, unfortunately, these anti-Muslim sentiments have been on the rise since 9/11, and hate crimes are on the rise since 9/11. Some presidential candidate debates have added fuel to the fire of anti-Muslim sentiments in the U.S., and so we are living in this moment now where this is happening parallel to events in the Middle East that the U.S. is also involved in.
So keep in mind that the destruction of Iraq and Syria also comes from the same mentality of being anti-Muslim, and hating Muslims, and treating Muslims as second-class human beings.
Islamophobia as Anti-Immigrant
Layla Razavi: The United States is not a stranger to fear mongering. Unfortunately, it’s been a part of our contemporary history to fear immigrant groups and waves of immigrants who have entered the country. But we’ve also always had a history of people who are welcoming, right? So alongside this dominant narrative that’s always occupied our political spaces, alongside that, there have been faith groups and activists and community organizations that have received and welcomed immigrants with open arms.
Naveed Moeed: When we see acts of racism and Islamophobia, we should be called to reach out and say, “Hey. That’s not right.” It should be within the very DNA of Quakers to fundamentally react against the loathsome rhetoric that comes out of the highly institutionalized racism that we still have in the United States and in Europe.
Raed Jarrar: Many people in our community, the AFSC community, or the Quaker community at large ascribe to views of our cities and the world at large where people are treated equally and respectfully. For those that ascribe to beliefs of treating everyone equally, we have to act on it. And within our safe spaces, we have to be very vocal, and we have to be very active in acting on these principles at a time that it really matters.
How Quakers Can Make a Difference
Layla Razavi: I think allies are incredibly important, and I think this really stretches across from movements that are trying to counter Islamophobia to broader movements against racism. All of these movements really benefit when there are allies that are engaged, and what I mean by engaged isn’t leading those movements per se; what I mean by “engaged” is people who are holding their peers accountable.
Read Jarrar: We are living at a political moment where it really matters to act. It really matters to speak out, and to reach out to American Muslims or refugees or immigrants and to engage in discussions with groups or individuals who are disseminating anti-Muslim or anti-Immigrant rhetoric.
Naveed Moeed: There are a plethora of ways that Quakers can help in all of the different Quaker communities across the United States. Wherever you are, there is probably a local Muslim community, and a Muslim community that may increasingly feel that it is isolated and fearful. Establishing links with local Muslim communities is something that I believe Quakers in particular are adept at doing, and should be encouraged to do.
We are not a huge movement. We are not large but we are powerful in our own ways, and our power and our strength comes from being able to cross cultural barriers and divides.
The views expressed in this video are of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Friends Journal or its collaborators.