Opinion: The New Zealand Massacre and Everyday Islamophobia
When I learned of last week’s attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, it struck me that the gunman chose a Friday. For Muslims around the world, Friday is the best day of the week because it’s the most blessed day of the week. Friday is when Jummah occurs: 30 minutes of meditation, free from your phone and surrounded by community. I grew up going to an Islamic school that had Jummah every Friday, and now that I’m in college, I miss it.
Jummah prayer is when a mosque is the most packed. So I have to believe this terrorist knew what he was doing when he chose a Friday for his massacre.
Like other Muslims I’ve spoken to since the terrorist attack, my immediate reaction was fear and disgust. I called one of my friends to check up on her, and she said the scary part is that this can happen at any mosque because all mosques are the same. They are open to anybody and everybody. So we are afraid. But no, we are not shocked. Because we know that extreme moments of terror are an extension of the everyday Islamophobia Muslims worldwide experience. We know that this is what Islamophobia can do.
The “thoughts and prayers” that are being sent to Muslim communities are a kind gesture, but they aren’t enough. Instead, you can offer your outrage. And not just after 50 of my fellow Muslims, who had full lives to look forward to, are killed, but all the time. Stop waiting until our lives are taken.
Be action-oriented when you see Islamophobia used as entertainment.
I think we can all agree that shows like “24” or “Elite” using Muslim people as their go-to bad guy or oppressed woman can create distorted views of Islam. But even seemingly benign moments, like Cardi B’s music video for “Bodak Yellow,” are othering and harmful. You can still love Cardi B and condemn that type of work. You can even love Disney and call them out for “Aladdin.”
Call out leaders who create policies that promote Islamophobia.
When politicians and commentators call for Muslims to be surveilled or proclaim that Islam promotes extremism, they dehumanize billions of people, and we are seeing the consequences. As Australian broadcaster Waleed Aly noted in his moving address following the attack in Christchurch, many of the same politicians sending thoughts and prayers have promoted anti-Muslim rhetoric sometime within their careers.
In the U.S., President Trump offered condolences after the attack, but in reference to immigrants he also used the exact same word as the gunman. “Today the terrorist has quoted the most powerful man in the world: President Trump,” stated the leader of the Council on American–Islamic Relations Nihad Awad. Perhaps it is a call for reflection when a white extremist’s source of inspiration comes from the President of the United States. And just a few weeks ago in America, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar received death threats and was blamed for 9/11 due to her faith. Where was the outrage then?
Make a point to eliminate Islamophobia in our everyday lives.
Instead of praying for Muslims, report that Islamophobic tweet you scrolled past. Call out your family members or coworkers for making anti-Muslim jokes or pressuring Muslims to do something that goes against their faith. When you hear about a school principal who advises parents not to have their kids fast for Ramadan, your response should be just as outraged as if Christian parents were told their kids couldn’t pray before lunch in the cafeteria.
And even if you can’t think of a specific action, you can just be mad. We must not be complacent with hate if we want to create change.
The Friday after the attack, I went to prayer. Jummah is one of the only moments Muslims like me don’t feel like the other. And yet all I could think about was that my mosque could be next. All our doors are open.
I get that it makes people uncomfortable to speak up about things like this. But you should not be comfortable in the face of my discrimination.
The lives we lost last week will always be in our hearts. We will always attend Jummah to honor their lives, but just as the mosque open for all, it’s time for society to be open to us.