Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Muslims: support and education

I got a sign in my inbox from Showing Up for Racial Justice:

I put it on my front door. I do it to be public with my support of my Muslim "neighbors" in my community, my state, my country, and the 50 countries around the world where the Muslim faith is worshiped by the majority of people there. This is in response to a particularly rude and dangerous white man running for presidency of the United States. It is apparent he is a xenophobe.

Just because there are a some Muslim terrorists, extremists and murderers, doesn't mean all Muslims want to do harm to those of us who aren't Muslims. I have a new friend who is smart, kind, an active leader in my Knapsack Antiracism group, and a Muslim. She has read this post and given me some information I will share with you here. (C: her comments are noted below with this)

Here is a link that I appreciated watching: I’m Muslim, But I’m Not... I just watched it again. It brings tears to my eyes. Why is this not obvious to all of us that Muslims are like all of us...they just practice a different religion!

I went to a job training last week and learned about Muslims.
Here are some of my learnings (if you are Muslim and want to add or correct any of this, please do!):
  • 23.4% of the world are Muslim, the largest population for a country is in Indonesia
  • 1% of the U.S. are Muslim, 3.3 million Muslims live here (2016 data)
  • Their God, who they call Allah, is the same God/Lord that Christians and Jewish people worship. C: Allah is just the Arabic word for God.
  • Islam is the religion
  • Muslim is the person who follows that religion
  • Islamic is an adjective for anything that is based on the Islam faith: ie. Islamic dress, calendar, practice, greetings, prayer...but not Islamic culture
  • Muslims pray 5 times a day
  • The Islamic calendar is also 12 months but is based on the moon so it is 11 days shorter each year than the calendar I am familiar with... in Ramadan, the 10th month, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset (no eating, drinking of anything at all, smoking or having sexual relations). At the end of Ramadan, Muslims feast which is called Eid. We can say: "Happy Eid."
    • C: Eid al-Fitr is the breaking of the fast (not to be confused with Eid al-Adha, our only other 'holiday'). Also, it's not exactly sunrise, it is dawn which comes before sunrise.
  • An Imam is an Islamic priest (Wikipedia says: an Islamic leadership position. It is most commonly in the context of a worship leader of a mosque and Muslim community by Sunni Muslims). Their words don't need to be followed exactly. Each Muslim can decide what to follow...following their own heart based on their relationship to Allah. Some countries/cultures require some practices; in the U.S. they have more choices.
    • C: This point is really hard to address because it seems to devalue the word of the imam. The imam is a religious leader (and has a sense of religious authority) that people can go to for questions about the faith/struggles they have/etc. It is true that a person does not have to follow the words of the imam though.
  • I was curious about the name of the head scarf/Islamic dress that my Muslim friend wears (I learned it is a hijab) and ones that cover more, and less than that.  This is a link that shows some information about different countries: How people in Muslim countries prefer women to dress in public. A hijab is #4 in the picture. I learned that a hijab covers all but face and hands in public and that this amount of covering is what the Quran (Koran) says to do. Anything more is required by the government and authority, and is cultural, not Islamic. Anything less is a choice in this country anyway, but is not a problem for those wearing more.
    • Some governments of countries (Afghanistan?, etc.) require all the women there to wear a nekab (see #1 and #2 in the link above)...including Christian and Jewish women too. A nekab covers either all of the body including eyes, or all but the eyes.
  • A Muslim man cannot touch women except to shake hands and visa versa (outside family members, I think).   
    • C: This is not true exactly. As Muslims, touching a person of the opposite gender who isn't related to you (mother/father, wife/husband, sister/brother, daughter/son, etc) is not permissible, this includes hand shaking. This isn't the easiest thing to follow especially in countries like the United States. There are some Muslims comfortable with shaking hands, and others who really try to stay away from doing so. 
  • We can express our openness to learn about Muslims; it is okay to ask questions, but don't insist on hearing an answer in the way we would like as sometimes the answer is complicated and too personal or hard to express (especially if there is a language barrier). 
  • If we are friendly and help Muslims feel welcome and accepted, we offer HOPE. Hope can prevent disengagement and extremism. I personally don't want to add to stereotype threat. I want Muslims to feel they belong here in my society. 
  • What we can do: show your support by your actions, it's ok to say “hello” and make small talk, spread the word, and visit a mosque. 
  • C: Muslims greet each other with salaam alaikum (which means peace be upon you). I learned a while ago that the reply to this is alaikum salaam.
  • My friend also shared this link with me from The Daily Show with Trevor Noah: Director of Research at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding Dalia Mogahed weighs in on how the media talks about terrorism. (6:12) 
    • I like how Dalia Mogahed responded to the misguided beliefs that "all terrorists are Muslim," and reminded us that fear mongering normalizes bigotry so we need to stand up against it. She helped me understand more about wearing the hijab: it is an act of devotion and it privatizes a woman's sexuality.

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