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President Donald Trump’s dark view of Islam has significant implications for America’s foreign policy and for American Muslims. But over the past few weeks, his actions have also inspired an outpouring of support for Muslims.
On the campaign trail and in the White House, President Donald Trump used Islamophobic rhetoric to tap into his supporters’ misguided anxiety about Islam. Trump’s well-documented history of Islamophobia has left many American Muslims anxious about the the next four years.
Trump has claimed that his executive order on immigration is not a Muslim ban. But the president has made it clear that he would prioritize Christian refugees and other persecuted religious minorities ― even though most victims of terrorism are Muslim. As legal challenges to Trump’s executive order work their way through the courts, there’s a chance that Trump will be held accountable for the inflammatory language he’s used to describe the faith of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims.
At the same time, Trump’s Islamophobia has also inspired numerous acts of love and resistance. American Muslim organizations are getting ready to spend the next four years engaged in activism and coalition-building. And interfaith supporters have come out time and again to show their solidarity.
Below, The Huffington Post has gathered 11 amazing acts of resistance inspired by Trump’s Islamophobic rhetoric. The list, while not comprehensive, shows that you don’t need to share the same religion in order to be a good neighbor ― and that good things can happen even during the darkest of times.
A Muslim woman’s voice featured front and center at the Women’s March on Washington.
After initially being criticized for a lack of inclusivity, three veteran organizers from three under-represented communities were asked to be co-chairs of The Women’s March on Washington. One of them was Linda Sarsour, a New Yorker and the director of the Arab American Association of New York. Sarsour spoke passionately at the march about the discrimination her community has faced over the years.
After the event, right-wing, anti-Muslim sites started harassing Sarsour online. But celebrities, activists, faith leaders, and ordinary people joined forces to defend Sarsour and pledge their solidarity.
“I am still unapologetically Muslim American and proud," Sarsour told The Huffington Post about the response from her supporters. “I am grateful for the outpouring of support and still committed to fighting for justice for all communities and against fascism.”
Interfaith supporters protested in cities and neighborhoods across America and the world.
The weekend after Trump announced his executive order on immigration, protests erupted at airports across the country. People from wide array of religious traditions gathered together to stand in solidarity with immigrants and refugees. The protests have continued after that first weekend, getting people out into the streets of New York, Missouri, Salt Lake City, Los Angeles, Houston, Washington, D.C., and many other cities.
Prayer was used as a form of activism.
For years, to “fly while Muslim” meant mentally preparing for the possibility of facing extra screening and questions at the airport. Muslims have been kicked off flights for sweating, reading books, and speaking in Arabic.
But ever since Trump’s order was announced, American Muslims have turned airports into a place of activism. At New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport, Michigan’s Detroit Metropolitan Airport, and Texas’ DFW International Airport, they laid their protest signs on the floor and knelt down in public to observe one of the core pillars of their faith ― prayer. In some places, interfaith supporters stood in a circle around the worshippers to offer “love and protection.”
In doing so, these activists were reclaiming a space that has often been a source of anxiety and discrimination for Muslims.
Young people got to see what love in action looks like.
All over the country, young people got involved in interfaith activism as a result of Trump’s executive order on immigration. This beautiful photo taken at at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport highlights one of those moments. The photo shows Rabbi Jordan Bendat-Appell taking to a Muslim dad, Fatih Yildirim. Their children, 9-year-old Adin and 7-year-old Meryem, sit on their shoulders. The two families struck up a friendship after that chance meeting. The Yildirims later joined the Bendat-Appells for Shabbat dinner.
On Snapchat, over one thousand teen girls responded to a call to post videos expressing their reactions to the Muslim ban.
These are the kinds of moments that will inspire kids to spread love throughout their lives.
Rabbis put their bodies on the line.
On February 6, a group of rabbis and activists staged a sit at New York’s Trump International Hotel. Nineteen protestors were arrested after blocking traffic.
Rabbi Jill Jacobs, executive director of T’ruah, the Jewish organization that organized the march, told Haaretz she felt a duty to stand up for immigrants and refugees.
“When the borders were closed to us in 1924, as a result, millions of people died,” she said. “We also now hear echoes of the language used then to keep us out – that we would be a fifth column, that there would be Nazi spies hiding among us. It’s the same kind of language being used now.”
A Catholic priest clarified how Christians are expected to treat refugees.
Rev. James Martin, editor-at-large at the Catholic website America, issued a passionate defense of the Christian principle of welcoming the stranger in a Facebook video. By press time, the video had acquired over 5 million views.
“It is Christ whom we turn away when we build walls. It is Christ whom we reject when we slash quotas for refugees. It is Christ whom we are killing, by letting them die in poverty and war rather than opening our doors.”
A Sikh activist reached out to his Muslim neighbors (and encouraged others to do the same).
Dr. Simran Jeet Singh, a religion professor at Trinity University and a Sikh activist, responded to Trump’s executive order by reaching out to American Muslims who are feeling unwelcome and unsafe.
He drafted a letter in support of Muslims and is encouraging allies to share it with their local Muslim communities, or write their own letters.
“Please remember that you have allies here – people who truly and sincerely care about your well-being. We ask you to please stay strong in these challenging times and to please take care of yourselves and your loved ones,” Singh wrote in the letter. “As your allies, we promise to do everything that we can to stand up for your rights and to ensure that you are treated with the dignity and respect that you deserve.”
Religious organizations staunchly opposed imposing religious tests on refugees.
Along with individual acts of protest, the executive order has also provoked criticism from some of America’s biggest religious organizations. Many condemned the idea of prioritizing refugees based on religion. A number of America’s Catholic bishops have condemned Trump’s beleaguered travel ban, saying that it echoed the discrimination that Catholic immigrants once faced in this country. Protestant Christians from many denominations, including the evangelical tradition, spoke out and signed letters in protest. In a rare show of unity, all four major American Jewish denominations issued statements criticizing Trump’s executive order on immigration. Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh organizations also expressed their concern.
Refugee resettlement agencies got new donors.
Six of the nine domestic agencies that help the government resettle refugees are overtly faith-based organizations. The agencies help refugees find housing, secure jobs, and adjust to life in America. Because of the drastic reductions to refugee admissions instated by the executive order, many fear that they may have to fire staff or potentially shut down ― which means they won’t be able to continue to serve the refugees that are already here.
Mark Hetfield, CEO of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, told The Huffington Post: “There’s just been an amazing outpouring of support. We’ve literally acquired thousands of new donors since the order was issued and so many people want to volunteer that we can’t even accommodate the requests.”
Tech companies decided to get political.
America’s tech companies moved quickly to condemn the order and offer their support for refugees. Google created a $2 million crisis fund to help that can be matched with $2 million in donations from employees. The funds will be donated to organizations, like the American Civil Liberties Union and the International Rescue Committee, that are working to help refugees. AirBnB pledged to work with hosts to provide free housing to refugees.
Nearly 100 tech companies, including Facebook, Microsoft, and Apple, joined together to issue an amicus brief opposing the ban.
Muslim artists, writers, and creatives got some support.
The Museum of Modern Art responded to Trump’s order by digging into its permanent collection and rehanging works created by artists from some of the seven Muslim-majority countries the White House targeted. The action, a rare move for the cultural institution, was taken to “affirm the ideals of welcome and freedom as vital to this Museum as they are to the United States,” according to placards that hang next to the pieces.
MoMa has also committed to showing films directed by artists who are subject to the travel ban, The New York Times reports.
In the literary world, nearly 80 literary agents have issued a joint call for submissions from Muslim authors.
The agents said in a statement: “We all agree that the current political climate demands a need for a greater presence of authors of Muslim heritage in the book marketplace. We are taking action to help make that happen.”
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