The regime change in the U.S. has already been catastrophic for many, with swift steps and clearly laid out plans to dismantle the Affordable Care Act that will leave many without healthcare, defund organizations globally who provide even suggestions of abortion as an option, build the U.S./Mexico border wall, forge ahead with the DAPL pipeline, and freeze hiring for government positions as well as any environmental regulations that were in process.
One of the big, and most shocking to some people, legal steps taken has been to cut back significantly on allowing refugees entry, while also blocking documented green-card holders and anyone with dual-citizenship from entering the country. At this point, the administration is especially (though not exclusively) targeting a handful of Muslim-majority nations, while suggesting that refugees of “minority religions” from those nations will still be given first priority to come into the U.S. The nations targeted at the time of this writing are Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. Anyone currently in the U.S. from those countries is being advised by the ACLU not to travel outside the U.S. (not even to Canada). Both the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the ACLU have filed lawsuits against the federal government regarding these actions.
As fears of the “Muslim Registry” Trump made part of his campaign promises to build seem more real, many Americans and others have said they too will register as Muslim to clog the process, despite many Muslims explaining why that isn’t likely to be very helpful. At the same time, even as Muslims have taken to social media to lay out ways non-Muslims can help, they remain inundated with people demanding more advice, suggestions, and explanations of what Muslims really need. Like the safety pin controversy a few months ago, registering as Muslim is something that sounds good and makes allies feel good to think about doing, without requiring actual engagement or meaningful effort.
As a Muslim who is exhausted with being asked “but what do you want me to do” by people who have ignored all previous suggestions offered, and who pose more and more demands upon my time and energy, I cannot continue to hand-hold anyone. This list is short and simple for a reason. It is not all the options, it is not extensive, it is nothing more than a starting point for people who claim they want to do something that actually helps Muslims.
- Learn about basic Islam so that you do not contribute to misinformation. Even people who claim to want to be allies often continue to say the religion is “vile” or “inherently misogynistic” based on lack of knowledge, lack of nuance, and lack of caring. You can’t claim to support Muslims while doing that. Others genuinely consider themselves sympathetic but still put forward falsehoods based on assumptions, misreadings, what one person told them, and taking things out of context.
- Communicate with actual Muslims, but don’t be a drain on them. If you don’t know any Muslims in a deep way, please don’t tell Muslims online what you think you know. You can’t support people you haven’t tried to get to know, and you can’t support us if you’re always speaking over us.
- Support the work and businesses of actual Muslims. Donate to CAIR to further their advocacy and legal support work. This is not to say that support for the ACLU isn’t also good, but you could be supporting Muslims who are doing the work themselves. Shop at Muslim owned stores, eat at Muslim owned restaurants. Hire Muslim writers, artists, poets, and speakers for your journals or engagements. Financially compensate Muslims who you have learned from online.
- Part of getting to know real Muslims is understanding we are not a monolith. There are Queer Muslims, Disabled Muslims, Black Muslims, Latinx Muslims, Muslims who are not immigrants, Convert Muslims, Secular Muslims and more. Islam is also a rich tradition with a variety of cultures and interpretations on many issues, so not all Muslims dress, act, or even believe the exact same way. Don’t box us in. Elevate the voices of Muslims, and don’t highlight only the ones it is easy for you to agree with — let us be complex.
- Support the most marginalized Muslims, and support the most marginalized people because those communities include Muslims. That means showing up for Black Lives Matter — that includes Black Muslim lives. It means getting involved with NoDAPL efforts — that supports Indigenous/Native Muslims too. It means being there for trans, genderqueer, gay/lesbian/bisexual needs and rights — that impacts LGBTQ Muslims too.
- SPEAK UP. On social media, in your family, in your classroom or workplace, in the grocery store. Stop being timid when you hear someone say something discriminatory, hateful, or harassing about or to Muslims. I’ve been Muslim for 19 years, in which time I have been screamed at from cars, followed around grocery stores, had derogatory remarks said about me loud enough for the entire office to hear, been harassed, openly threatened, and even physically shoved in public. I’ve never had anyone other than my mother speak up for me, tell anyone to stop what they were saying or doing, offer to get me to safety, or physically defend me.
- Don’t make Muslims do emotional labor for you. Also, don’t put your (usually white) guilt on us. We don’t want to hear how sorry you are, how you didn’t vote for Trump, how you can’t believe things are like this, how you once dated a Muslim, or how you totally understand what we’re going through because you identify x way. Spare us from the expectation that we should absolve you or make you feel better.
- Don’t make Muslims do any other labor for you either. Please don’t message us asking permission or advice to reach out to local Muslims in your area. JUST DO IT. Please don’t tell us you want to wear hijab in solidarity and ask us why that’s wrong (it’s cultural appropriation, it’s not helpful in any case, and you can take it off when it gets too difficult/hot/scary for you.) Please don’t tell us you’re going to register because you don’t like the reasons we have given for why it’s not helpful. Please don’t ask us for lists of what you “should do instead.” (SHARE THIS) And please don’t tell us your ally-hood is contingent on us being nice to you.
- Reach out to real Muslims around you. Minus the guilty face and sorrowful “ashamed to be an American” right now attitude. Just say hi, be friendly. Offer a ride if you see someone needs it. Help clean up graffiti on your neighbor’s house or the mosque. BUILD MEANINGFUL RELATIONSHIPS AND FRIENDSHIPS because we are real people. Call the mosque and ask what is needed and wanted, how you can best be of service. Offer your professional skills or services. Be ok with discomfort or suspicion, and don’t push your way in to do things not wanted.
- Get ready for it to get uglier and figure out what you are willing to do. Are you willing to stand in front of the mosque to make it safer for Muslims to get inside? Are you willing to confront the parent whose kid is harassing Muslim kids at your child’s school? Are you willing to do your grocery shopping with the Muslim neighbor so she isn’t harassed in the store? Are you willing to risk your job or a client by speaking up when they say something discriminatory or reveal that they support discriminatory policies? Will you donate money, food, time, labor? Will you make your home and/or business a safe place for Muslims to come to if needed? Will you testify in court or step in between a Muslim and a police officer? Will you show up to rallies and let Muslims lead but be the barrier between Muslims and law enforcement? Figure out what you are really able to offer, what you are really able and willing to do, and make a plan for how you will do it when the time comes.