General Points to Consider
Recognize Islam as the new “other.” The hate is the same hatred of white supremacists against people of color, of Anti-Semitism, of the Tutsis toward the Hutus, of Native Americans by the early American settlers, of Russians (or Americans) during the cold war, of Christians by Roman emperors, of Northern Ireland’s Catholics vs. Protestants, or Japanese by other East Asians and Americans, “witches” in Salem Massachusetts and any other group that has been or is marginalized, excluded, banished, ridiculed, or targeted for violence. “Otherizing” divides and harms humanity rather than uniting in compassion, love for one’s fellow humans.
Today it is the Muslims; tomorrow it will be another group. Throughout history, groups have been targeted based on current prevailing sentiment until the collective moves on to some new group. Humans practice superiority in the mistaken belief that by putting someone else down, one’s own status is “elevated.” It’s important to remember projection onto a group seen as “other” is temporary and employs the darker side of human nature and depends on who is seen as the new “evil du jour.” Remind others to keep this in mind too by pointing out the outcomes of hate groups and war mongering because someone is made “other.”
Religion is a sacred space and a private matter. Freedom of religion means the ability to practice one’s faith by choice openly or privately and to be free of intimidation or violence. Religions designate a holy space for the purpose of allegiance to the great mysteries or something greater than the human self. Whether it is a church, Mosque, Synagogue, Fellowship Hall, Temple, Shrine, Satsang, Native American Sweat Lodge or Longhouse or Kirtan, that space is holy and should be accorded the respect and reverence accorded a holy place.
Speak up. When someone lumps together all “Muslims” or whatever “evil group du jour” is the contemporary target, and labels and disparages them, your own group can just as easily become a target for no rational reason. Groups represent a diverse population and no one person or one behavior represents the whole of a group. One black person does not speak for all black people. One badly behaving Asian does not represent all Asians. One white person does not speak for the whole race. There are different kinds of Catholics and different brands of Protestants. No one religion is embraced by all people in a group. Not all tenets are embraced by all in that religion. Diversity is as common to faiths as it is to humans.
When someone slams another group or religion, that is an insult to something holy and should not be tolerated. It is important to be vocal about conversation that is offensive. Say you are offended and say why. When something is publicly offensive or comes from a place of authority, question it in a letter to the editor. Hold a meeting to discuss this with your congregation or group.
“Faith” is precisely that—something that is embraced in theory or adopted without proof. The great mysteries and religions are man’s way of explaining that which he doesn’t understand. Religion is a hypothesis, and act of faith. How do you prove God—by whatever name? It’s based on belief and faith and interpretation of scriptures considered holy. No belief or faith or person or group has the one superior or correct answer. Most deities are generous enough to embrace all peoples, even those considered “fringe.”
Killing in the name of religion or of a god is just morally wrong and is not sanctioned by a god in any form. The taking of a life is the taking of something holy. Followers of a faith are governed by guiding principles; every major faith, at their esoteric core, incorporates the golden rule in some form. “Treat others as you would like to be treated” is a common thread. Respect for self, others, life and land and all things holy, runs through most scriptures and is a guiding principle no matter the window-dressing.
Earth is an island. At the edge that island is the black and terrifying nothingness of space. We must learn to get along on this planet if we are to survive. Everything is interconnected and the web of life is immense and precious while intertwined in an intimacy that we are only now beginning to recognize. Thus we are all accountable to one another. Remind those who would divide instead of unify that the human is one species no matter the color, religion, location, circumstance, accident of birth or inherited religion.
Respect the instruments of all religions whether it’s the building housing the faithful, the scriptures or holy book that is considered divinely inspired and prophetic. Consider how inflammatory disparaging someone else’s instruments, traditions, ceremonies is and how you would feel being on the receiving end of that prejudice and hatred. Speak up about respecting all peoples and all faiths whether it suits you or not, in the name of freedom of religion.
Fundamentalism in any faith is rigid and emotions run high among fundamentalists. Fear and dependency are driving forces in fundamentalism. Understand that those who espouse it are motivated by fear and the rigidity is defense in the face of fear. Fundamentalists don’t embrace change. Hating or disdain will not help someone examine their own beliefs and behavior but will serve to reinforce the behavior and make it more rigid. Most people who adopt rigidity do not recognize their unconscious motives. Listening to reasoning and finding common ground is a better response than condemnation.
Spend time with Muslims in your community and ask them what you can do to help. Maybe hold a vigil or a public demonstration of solidarity with the faithful to show your support. Attend a service in a Mosque or other place of worship to foster understanding and invite them to your place of worship. Hold an interfaith dinner or event and invite people of other faiths and include Muslims.
Do not be silent in the face of terrorism—any terrorism. Harassment, ridicule, racism, name calling, marginalization, violence, acts of cruelty have no place in civil society particularly in holy places. It is hypocritical to pretend to be against terrorism or terrorists while perpetrating your own brand of terrorism. Do not tolerate terrorism in any form including micro-aggressions. Be clear and be vocal about the intolerance. If the offense is in writing or in the media, write a letter to the editor or go to the comment section of the website to make your thoughts known. Counter bullying where you find it on social media. Let the Muslims in and around your community know you care, embrace and support them. Be visible.
Educate self, others and your community about Islam. Invite a speaker to give a sermon in your place of worship; request books for your library or buy and donate books that help with understanding about what Islam is; bring Islam up in a meeting and discuss how to approach prejudice in your community; practice zero tolerance in the face of intimidation or harassment.
Keep and speak an open mind. Remind those who would close their minds and hearts to others what irreversible damage has been done and what evil perpetrated in the world in the name of religion.
Compiled and written by Barbara Kaufmann