Duaa Ardat | 07-09-2017
Lately, I have noticed the promotion of the term "Islamophobia" in the media—the association of Islam terrorism. Islam is almost universally misunderstood in the Western world. Since the 9/11 attacks on New York City that brought down the Twin Towers, life has not been the same for Muslims.
I first heard about hate crimes against Muslims in 2015, when three American Muslim students were shot to death at a University of North Carolina dormitory without cause. Most recently, during Ramadan this summer, I read the story of Nabra Hassanen, which circulated on social media. The 17-year-old black girl, also from the United States, was wearing a hijab and abaya after praying at a local mosque with her friends when she was abducted and brutally beaten to death. While the police labeled her murder “road rage,” her father and many others believes she was targeted due to her religion.
I was at a loss for words when I read this. What has caused such an unfair reputation for Muslims? Why is Islam portrayed as a synonym for terrorism?! Personally, I place a lot of the blame on the media for tarnishing our image as a people. The media rarely promote positive aspects of Islam or actions of its believers. Instead, they are quick to label terrorist and other extremist groups as “Islamist” (meaning evil), while not designating anyone else by their religion, even though they are guilty of many crimes. This has been taken as permission by racists to attack at will.
Thankfully, I have not personally experienced Islamophobia. When I first read about the We Are Not Numbers project and then met its American director, Pam Bailey, I sighed with relief. I didn't feel for a single moment that she has a bias against Muslims. The writers in the project are all Muslim Palestinians, and her own lifestyle and beliefs about religion are different. However, we treat each other with mutual respect. I still remember how excited she was to enter Ein El-Helweh camp, where one of my fellow writers lives, although it is portrayed in the media like the set of a horror movie. And once inside, she stopped outside a local mosque to savor the sound f the Adhan—the Islamic call to salat, or prayer. (A muezzin calls Adhan from the minaret of a mosque to announce every prayer and worship event.) According to Islamic custom, the Adhan is also the first thing a newborn baby should hear. Pam loves to hear the Adhan, especially the Fair (dawn) prayer), which features verses from the Qur'an. She even told me that when she lived in Gaza, she would set her alarm for 4:30 a.m. so she would be sure to hear it.
Pam is a good example of how one should not judge others based on what is promoted in the media or on other individuals you may have met. I can't deny, however, that I find the rise of Islamaphobic incidents deeply troubling. So, as a writer for We Are Not Numbers, I want to help change people's minds. I strongly believe that words and stories matter. They can change lives and minds and ultimately, the world. Like many Muslims, I am fed up with being labeled as a terrorist or an accomplice. That's why I want to share a story of a Jewish man and the kindness of Prophet Muhammed, Peace Be Upon Him.
Prophet Muhammed had a Jewish neighbor and he used to throw his garbage at the doorstep of the Prophet's home every morning. The Prophet would then pick it up and throw it out along with his personal trash. One morning, the Prophet didn't see any garbage at his door step, but he didn't think much about it. The next morning, and the morning after that, it was the same. When a week had passed without any garbage being placed on the Prophet's doorstep, he paid the Jewish neighbor a visit to check on him. The Prophet discovered the man was sick in bed. Our Prophet then started taking care of his Jewish neighbor and the man soon embraced Islam because of that kindness.
The point of the story is that the true mission of Islam is to serve. It's a religion of peace. It is our duty as Muslim individuals to demonstrate tolerance through our behavior. In fact, there is a lot in the Qur’an and collection of hadiths (sayings of the Prophet) that command Muslims to be compassionate and kind to all of God's creations. One such hadith states, “Whoever is deprived of gentleness is deprived of all good.”
To all Islamophobic people around the world, I say this: It is unfair to judge Islam for the bad acts of some Muslims; judge it instead as a religion. Islam is not what Muslims do, but what they are supposed to do. As it has been said, "Judging Islam on the basis of a few Muslims is like eating a rotten fruit and blaming the whole tree."
Posted: September 6, 2017
Mentor: Pam Bailey