Empowering And Thanking Those Who Stand Up to Islamophobia

On March 9, The Huffington Post posted an article by Soorah Hassan on the growing Islamophobia in the United States. The piece powerfully illustrates the types of bigotry American Muslims face, and analyzes the United States' effort to be a multicultural nation.

While narrating her experiences as an international Muslim student, Hassan references House Resolution 569, introduced by Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA08), which condemns anti-Muslim bigotry and declares Muslims an integral part of our nation. However, she does not feel the resolution is needed, or that it goes far enough.

Hassan's first problem with the resolution is that it is mere language - devoid of any teeth or enforcement mechanisms. But a resolution is just that - a non-binding piece that is "used to express the sentiments of a single house" of Congress, and thus has no effect of law.

But just because the resolution has no power of law, we should not and cannot dismiss the power of language. Firstly, the American Muslim community is in the crosshairs of bigots these days. As Hassan points out, and has experienced herself, the rhetoric is heated and offensive. Anti-Muslim hate crimes are at unprecedented levels. The last thing we need is silence.

Language creates an environment where certain ideas can be expressed, and then acted upon. We have a problem with Donald Trump's words not only because they are offensive and false, but because they make anti-Muslim sentiment acceptable. And if anti-Muslim sentiment is acceptable, then it becomes a little easier to reject a mosque permit, a little easier to deny employment to someone based on their hijab, a little easier to vandalize a mosque unpunished.

That is why what Rep. Beyer did is so impactful. In these trying times, being seen as nuanced or even friendly towards Islam can be a death-knell for a political career. Rep. Beyer is taking a courageous step by even acknowledging that anti-Muslim incidents occur, but he goes further by recognizing our community's contributions to our nation.

Of course, it's not "a good sign that a resolution aimed at protecting any specific ethnic, religious or racial group has any sort of perceived necessity" and that "we need to stop separating Muslims from the general populace in what should be this free, tolerant and open multiethnic country." However, the fact is that it is a necessity and that the first thing we can do to accept American Muslims into our society is by acknowledging the bigotry we face.

For that, the American Muslim community must thank Rep. Beyer. We must also encourage all our elected officials to show courage and principle and stand against Islamophobia and all forms of hate. In such heated times, as we strive to push our nation to live up to the values it was created upon, steps like acknowledgment and support should be encouraged.

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