The horrifying video above, showing Muslims arriving at a community charity event in Orange County, U.S.A., being mercilessly heckled and harassed by protesters, has been making its rounds on the Internet.
Many people, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, have reacted to this video emotionally. Many of the comments I’ve read have been in the vein of losing faith in humanity. Others have denounced the blatant hatred and ignorance displayed by the protesters. Some have even shed tears over the jarring contrast between the fortitude of the Muslims in the eye of the storm and the uncouth hecklers.
The defence that surfaces when such inflammatory material arise—not all Muslims are the same, a billion Muslims should not be tarred by the same brush, terrorists come in all shapes and sizes—is often true, but trite.
Last week, while watching a program on CNN, I saw on the “Breaking News” crawler that two U.S. soldiers had been shot and killed in Germany. I felt my throat tighten and prayed that the killer was a random madman and not another Muslim with misguided ideas and beliefs.
I was dismayed to find out later that the killer was indeed a Muslim.
In the wake of the killings, the German Interior Minister has declared that Islam does not belong in his country, a sentiment that has been described as a “slap in the face” for the 4 million Muslims who call Germany home.
This, unfortunately, is the problem. For as long as some Muslims continue to carry out heinous acts targeting innocent people in the name of Islam, we will all be tarred by the same brush and bear the consequences of their actions. This isn’t fair, to be sure, but it’s happening anyway.
Mitigating ignorance simply is not enough. Fighting fire with fire will only add to our woes (an article I read in the aftermath of the shooting in Germany declaimed that the killing of two U.S. solders by a Muslim was justified by NATO soldiers mistakenly killing nine boys in Afghanistan. What needs to be addressed here is fear, and fear will persist as long as terrorists, politicians and the media allow it to.
It seems more than a little disheartening and demoralising to conclude that the majority of us who aren’t actively contributing to this negative image of Muslims can do little to alleviate it. Our good deeds and the Quran-sanctioned values of compassion, kindness and peacefulness we practice daily will always be overshadowed by the newsworthy actions of the misguided minority.
So what can we do?
Articles critical of Muslims often bleat about insufficient denunciation from the Muslim community when terrorist acts occur. I believe many Muslim communities already do release statements renouncing such acts when the need arises, but perhaps more forceful words and wider coverage in the media would help (media coverage can often be attained through good relationships with important journalists, a strategy successfully employed by the pro-Israel lobby).
We can also exercise patience and forgiveness. My father often tells my siblings and I this story about our Prophet Muhammad s.a.w., in which a woman used to throw pebbles at him as he walked past her house every day, but he would continue to walk by, head bowed. One day, as he walked past the woman’s house, she was not outside, ready to lob pebbles at him, so he knocked on her door to enquire after her. The woman was so humbled by the Prophet’s concern and ashamed of her previous behaviour that she embraced Islam.
The Muslims in the video displayed the same fortitude and patience as the Prophet p.b.u.h., holding their heads high and remaining peaceful and unruffled despite the verbal abuse being hurled at them. This is how we should behave in these difficult times. Rather than allowing ourselves to be consumed with rage and vengeance, we should be resilient, strive to stay on the path of righteousness, and strengthen our knowledge and imaan so we can deal with such obstacles.
Shahirah is an aspiring journalist who is interested in social issues, women’s rights, the Middle East conflict, and Islam in the Western world. She is also interested in languages and would like to take up Arabic soon.