Trigger warning: This article contains information that can be triggering, related to gender based and hate based violence.
“I’m so tired of fighting, so tired of this hate,” my friend Hend panicked. “I’m taking off my hijab.”
Hend was frantic after her best friend Anita had just experienced a hate crime. Anita’s hijab was torn from her head and her face was colored with cuts and bruises, demarcating her failed attempt to fight off her assailant. As she recounted these details, I thought about my own assault. I thought about the dozens of harassment and bullying stories I’ve heard from young Muslim women. I thought about the Muslims in my community in Queens who have been killed these past couple of months: Nazma, Imam Maulama, Thara and Al-Hinai.
Since the beginning of this election cycle, I have spoken to dozens of young Muslim women who are literally terrified to leave their homes. We are not afraid of the president-elect. We are afraid of what he has uncovered: a violently polarized nation, where scapegoating and misplaced grievances have become the norm. We are afraid our society won’t do anything about the hostility in this country that has contributed to so much violence against minority communities like mine. We are afraid of business as usual.
But if there’s anything I know how to do, it’s to fight back.
-After I experienced a hate crime at 16 in New York City, I organized because I needed a safe space. For the past six years, WISE has trained upwards of a thousand Muslim women in self-defense, storytelling and social entrepreneurship. We’ve created profoundly beautiful safe spaces, where Muslim women have put aside violent rhetoric and engaged difficult issues. We’ve empowered ourselves to fight against hate and to serve our country.
We have learned so many lessons from our work. As a Trump presidency looms and affects more than just my community, we realize the value of sharing these lessons for all of us--both allies and marginalized people.
Sometimes it feels overwhelming in the face of huge systemic issues. But we can do this. What we can’t do, is go back to doing what we were doing before. When they go low, we go high. And we are always stronger together. Below, I’ve provided lessons for allies and marginalized people. I hope this will be start to creating the change our country needs to see.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR MARGINALIZED PEOPLE Do you.
-Take care of yourself and of your community. Pray, listen to music, meditate, go on a run. If you’re a hijabi woman and need to take off your hijab, girl don’t care about what anyone else will say. If you’re white/straight passing and don’t want to out yourself. Do you. This is about you feeling physically secure. You need to do what helps your mental health. You can’t be there for someone else when you’re not taking care of yourself first.
Know your rights. Read this on knowing your rights: https://www.cair.com/images/pdf/Know-Your-Rights-Guide.pdf.
Take care of the children . The most profoundly impacted by what’s happening right now are the youngest. Hate and intolerance are unacceptable---always. As people feel emblazoned to leave political correctness behind, we need to teach our kids how to deal with hostility and maintain a culture of respect and integrity. We also need to protect them for the bullying and harassment that they are dealing with.
Solidarity from within. On the other hand, if you can and want to and are not as targeted as other folks in the group (for example Muslim men aren’t as visible as Muslim women), feel free to be more open about who you are. This can help a lot. Muslim man? Rock that Kufi and Salwar Kameez. White passing latinx? Be more open about your heritage. Only if you want and feel safe to do this, of course.
Love how fly we all are. Create spaces where you can appreciate the very parts of you that are being under attack. Trump hates that you’re gay? Throw the biggest baddest reading circle and read about the LGBTQ movement in the US. Trump wants to register all Muslims? Make it easy and get all your Muslim friends together for a sufi poetry night and some chai. Our histories and cultures are so rich, finding strength from them can be really empowering on both personal and community levels.
Take a self defense class. Take a self defense class. Take a self defense class. I get it. why should you have to do the extra work? But it is violent out there and you need to know how to de-escalate a situation when you’re confronted with violence. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a class near you.
Organize. Trump was elected. This is the reality. No change.org petition is going to get him impeached. What can help is if folks organize to make sure that his rhetoric doesn’t become policy. What can help is if folks organize to protect the most vulnerable against the rising levels of hate based violence. Create spaces where your communities can come together and support each other. Create spaces where you can strategize and make plans for research, outreach and policy advocacy. We still live in a democracy. You can have impact if you strategize effectively.
Write your own story. Write about how you’re feeling and center your experiences because it is really important right now. Can we get everyone else to stop talking on our behalf? Please.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ALLIES
Protect the undocumented:
-Figure out how to take action to protect undocumented students at your institutions. Here is an example from Harvard U: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSemp4Jd77TAlkWzvcc_dxZSm9sfiEm3lUM2KMqC1IBlyGgx1w/viewform?c=0&w=1&fbzx=4823794723253576000
-Organize a healing space and bring the community together for dialogue and/or conversation.
Be loud and in solidarity:
-Wear a safety pin to show that you’re in solidarity. Pull out all of your damn BLM/rainbow stickers. Be visible about how much you actually care. Share this green heart to show you’re in solidarity with Muslims.
Be a protector:
-If you see someone being attacked call for help. Here’s an infographic on how to be an effective bystander.
-Here is a list of readings for folks who want to better understand the challenges facing minority communities right now and on how they can help.
-Put your money where your mouth is. There are tons of organizations doing really important work in local communities. Providing resources for community to be able to heal and organize is important. Even $10 can go a really long way. Some national organizations include, ACLU, Amnesty International USA and Southern Poverty Law Center. Some Queens specific organizations, include WISE, DRUM, Make the Road NY and Asian Americans for Equity.
-It’d be amazing if you sent messages to folks who are feeling most vulnerable right now asking how you can help right now. Honestly, I have received dozens of beautiful, beautiful messages from friends and they have been the only things that made me smile.
Shut down the hate:
-If you hear the hate, shut it down. I’m not saying don’t engage it but don’t just be silent either. That’s when this type of rhetoric becomes normalized. We all know by now that rhetoric isn’t just rhetoric. It has really violent implications.
-Listen to your friends who are most marginalized by this election. Listen to folks who voted for Trump. I know it is hard to do both but it is the lack of really deep engagement that has lead to such polarization across our country. A lot of people who voted for Trump have real anti-establishment grievances that are valid. Listen to those, think about what you can do to actually mitigate the injustices they are facing so that we can slowly not repeat history.
-Take a break, this is hard on you too. You don’t have to be sorry. You didn’t make this happen so let yourself mourn too. After that, like I said, don’t go back to business as usual. It’s not business as usual for many of us. We’re damn terrified. We need you to be proactive and create change with us.
I’m updating this list so if you have any suggestions/comments please email them to (email@example.com)