You are here: Home Anti Prejudice Tools
Unchallenged, Islamophobia will continue to increase. For this guide, we are directing our recommendations to the Muslim community in the United States. While all of society should and must be involved in eradicating all forms of bigotry from our nation, Muslims must be willing to take the lead when it comes to pushing back against Islamophobia.
There are many recommendations below, but the key point is this: Put your faith into action. Do something positive, however small, on a consistent basis.
“It should not be one percent of our attention or one percent of our time or one percent of our wealth,” said CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad. “We should be generous, as if we are giving to ourselves.”
Muslims should avoid responses that play into the agendas of those seeking to smear our faith.
“The best thing I could always suggest to an individual is to act by example. Their example must be one that is calm and collected. Reflect the teachings of Prophet Mohammad—even in the face of his greatest enemies and critics and people who threw garbage on him, he treated people with the utmost respect and dignity,” said Asad Ba-Yunus.
God states in the Quran: "(But whatever they may say or do,) repel the evil (that they commit) with something that is better: We are fully aware of what they attribute (to Us)." (The Holy Quran, 23:96)
And also: "(Since) good and evil cannot be equal, repel (the evil deed) with one that is better. Then you will see that he with whom you had enmity, will become your close friend." (The Holy Quran, 41:34)
A Christian leader offered this observation during an interview for CAIR's Same Hate, New Target report:
“I think there is the double burden that American Muslims have of both having to explain and convey their faith to a group of people who are non-Muslim who may be asking very ignorant and silly questions but nonetheless ones that are genuine. I think having an enormous amount of patience with non-Muslims is not necessarily a fair thing, but nonetheless an important thing. Trying hard to explain their faith as much as they possibly can without going crazy but also having patience and understanding with non-Muslims who perhaps should have a better understanding but actually don’t, and I think that’s an incredibly, incredibly important thing.”
“I do not think that we as individuals have been forthright in being able to express our values,” said Haris Tarin, former Washington D.C. office director for MPAC. “We have just taken for granted the fact that our fellow citizens are good people. They know me, so they do not need to know my values and my principles and my religion. I think that has got to change. I think the average individual to a certain extent needs to engage in conversations that humanize Muslims, humanize Islam. Because that is the way you defeat Islamophobia on the ground.”
CAIR’s research supports this assertion.
Additionally, a Gallup study indicated that, “personal affiliation with a Muslim may help to soften extreme prejudice, but is not enough to eliminate it.” Gallup adds, “One’s perception of the faith is as strongly associated with tolerance, as is one’s perception of the characteristics of the faith group in general. Those who associate attributes such as gender issues, peace, and interfaith acceptance with Muslims are more likely to claim no prejudice against the faith group.” [i]
Report such incidents to the appropriate authorities. Both Human Rights First and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights note that hate crimes are underreported in the United States.[ii] This matches CAIR’s experience.
We understand that reporting an incident is often that last thing a person wants to do, but it is the best thing for ensuring justice and protecting others from experiencing similar incidents.
Perpetrators of discrimination cannot be allowed to think their crime carries no consequences. The public must see and share the natural revulsion that accompanies hearing and seeing the results of bigotry.
Documentation is important. Take pictures of vandalism; record bigoted speech when you see it on TV.
To report an Islamophobic act or an incident of anti-Muslim discrimination, call CAIR at (202) 488-8787 or go here.
To increase your chances of publication, follow these guidelines:
“One thing individuals can do … is to participate in mosque life and to encourage the participation of the mosque and thejamaat in American life,” said Imam Talib Abdur Rashid during an interview for CAIR's Same Hate, New Target report.
Unfortunately, many excellent local efforts are not fully capitalized on or integrated with larger national endeavors. Frequently, this is purely because the organizers are unaware of others’ activities. We recommend that individuals, local and regional groups form partnerships or consider signing a memorandum of understanding with a national organization to synergize their work, inshaAllah granting all better results.
Working with any of CAIR’s local chapters may serve to further your cause. Find the nearest CAIR chapter by visiting here.
Dr. Robert Crane echoes this suggestion: “Educate the younger generation with vision so that they can enter academia and help change entire paradigms of thought, or join and found think tanks in order to shape political agendas, or even prepare for a career in politics in order to work proactively from an interfaith perspective on specific policy issues unrelated to Muslims as a group or Islam as a religion.”[iii]
“There is a real set of opportunities for national Muslim organizations to really, so to speak, change the brand for Muslims in the United States. That is very hard to do,” Aziz Huq suggests. The goal he says is to “reconfigure people’s expectations about what it means to be a Muslim.”
“I do not think that we have been able to successfully put forth the counter narrative. Now the word ‘shariah’ is the new ‘jihad,’ which is being made over into a dirty word,” said Haris Tarin.
American Muslim institutions must change the dialogue from what Muslims are not (terrorists, extremists, here to remove the Constitution) to what we are.
Acting in the Islamic tradition of volunteerism should be a constant push from community leaders, not only during emergencies, but consistently encouraged during sermons and at other opportunities. Local institutions should offer their congregations or members regular opportunities to volunteer. We must better leverage the deep professional resources in finance, law, and medicine available in our community.
“I think we really need to serve the society,” said CAIR-National Executive Director Nihad Awad during a discussion about this report. “We need to do service beyond our immediate circles, beyond the traditional religious functions. I think that is when the community will find itself at home and when other people will find the community worthy of respect.”
We recommend at least one open house per quarter for mosques and Islamic centers. The event need not specifically focus on Muslim topics. CAIR’s national headquarters hosted an open house during the 2009 presidential inauguration, offering attendees a place to recover from the January cold. Simply showing thoughtfulness and hospitality can change some people’s perceptions of Muslims.
Advertising is crucial to diversify the audience you are reaching. Many local radio and community newspapers offer an opportunity for free announcements of such community-building events. Ask the leadership of nearby churches and synagogues to announce your event to their congregants. Ask everyone to post your event announcement to their e-lists and Facebook.
Expand your event beyond a simple display of posters or ethnic food—host discussions on the issues of the day. Invite a spectrum of speakers.
To schedule one for your community or company, please email [email protected] or call (202) 488-8787.
CAIR offers civic participation trainings for those who are interested in improving the impact of the ideas and efforts. To schedule a training in your community, call (202) 488-8787 or e-mail [email protected]
Download a copy of CAIR’s Civic Participation Handbook, a manual designed to help you roll up your sleeves and start impacting the public sector, here.
In a 2004 press statement, Dr. Asma Mobin-Uddin of CAIR-Ohio said: “We would like to help law enforcement officials and Muslims have an appreciation for each other’s needs and concerns. This way, we can improve understanding and cooperation between the groups.”
American Muslims strongly support law enforcement and the protection of our national security. As Americans, we also value the civil rights of all Americans. All Americans have the constitutional right of due process and to be politically active.
If you know of any criminal activity taking place in your community, it is both your religious and civic duty to immediately report such activity.
You can obtain a copy of CAIR’s “Best Practices for Mosque and Community Safety” handbook which has been developed to better equip you and your community with the knowledge necessary to protect against anti-Muslim bigotry or attacks, and to secure your basic legal rights.
Request your copy of "Best Practices for Mosque and Community Safety" here.
[i] Gallup. “Religious Perceptions in America: With an In-Depth Analysis of U.S. Attitudes Toward Muslims and Islam,” 2009.
[ii] Human Rights First, “Violence against Muslims: An Update to HRF’s 2008 Hate Crime Survey,” 2010.