While many are still horrified by the Christchurch mosque shooting, the fear instilled in most of us when the news came out will slowly fade as it just becomes “another tragedy.” However, that feeling of being terrified is still in our Muslim friends every time they step foot in a mosque. After the attack, mosques all over the world are forced to tighten their security by having the police guarding their parameters. You don’t really see churches needing the same level of security, do you?
How about being able to wear a hijab without getting suspicious looks? Some people think that wearing the hijab suppresses the woman’s identity and expression, but she’s actually harnessing the feeling of empowerment as she wears a hijab. By exercising their freedom of religion, getting shouted at, spat on, or even physically hurt are just a few of the many acts of degradation they face. To have anxiety swelling up while praying in the masjid, constantly looking at the door, hoping that you could finish your prayers in peace — that’s the reality our friends face. The fear of not feeling safe anywhere and knowing that every Friday prayer could potentially be their last is real. The children are learning the fear as well, getting told by teachers and classmates that their religion supports terrorism. Even a little girl came back from school with her hijab hidden in her bag, because she was scared of being bullied.
At this point, many still don’t see our Muslim friends as humans. The families who went to the Christchurch mosque were ready to sit with loved ones and pray, but were slaughtered instead. The current social climate allowed this to happen, and this isn’t about some guy with mental issues. When Islamophobia is normalized, this could be anyone. People are afraid to stand up, especially if it doesn’t affect them, or maybe they just want to “mind their own business.” Anytime you hear Islamaphobic remarks, and you say nothing, you are letting them know that their words are acceptable, or that it’s probably just “black humor” and that you should just learn how to “take a joke.” Shying away from confrontation cannot make you an ally. When your family members and friends joke about stereotypes and you avoid conflict, you feed the beast. That shooter? He was someone’s relative. He was someone’s friend. This could have been prevented. Our Muslim friends cannot be the only ones standing up to the hate and we must stand with them, to say that there is no such thing as a harmless joke or a funny stereotype, because this fuels the underlying belief of hate; and the hate grows.
When the headline is replaced with another tragedy and memories of past tragedies fade, they will still be in danger; being yelled out, their mosques burned and vandalized, and our women unsafe because of a piece of cloth. Speaking up just for the occasion and hashtagging to dedicate to the victims, is not enough. Speaking up anytime you see something wrong and educating your friends and family, is how we can do our part to support and protect. They need us. Our voice matters. Dare to speak up and don’t stop until this world is safe for us all.
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