The past week has been big for Islamophobia. Franklin Graham recently came out against a proposed Muslim prayer space in Orlando’s airport. Governor Scott Walker claimed that there are, in fact, a “handful of reasonable” Muslims. A US District Court in New York convicted a man for attempting to obtain a radioactive device to target Muslims.
So, yes, Islamophobia is thriving. There is no denying that. But the question is: What are we doing about it?
Unfortunately, what we usually do about it is reactive. If something happens, we call for an apology, make a statement, or file a lawsuit. And while that is necessary and understandable for a group in its political infancy, it is time that we take the next step and be proactive in what we do.
We gain our right through petition and embracing our civic responsibilities. When we do anything good for America, Islam will get the credit and Muslims will be more secure. American Muslims must be willing to provide value to policy makers and opinion shapers, and not merely ask for their rights. By providing value, those in power are more likely to pick up the phone when you call. By creating friendships, we have allies with whom we can create positive changes.
Why should we be proactive?
When things are (relatively) calm, before a crisis occurs, is when we should be working our hardest to contribute to discourse. The time to make changes is now. This is the time to talk with Members of Congress, journalists, and Hollywood scriptwriters to push the needle ever so slightly towards inclusivity, justice, and tolerance. By doing it now, we are better prepared when we do have to be reactive.
How can we be proactive?
MPAC’s work is steeped in its firm belief of being proactive through engagement. By being proactive, we lay the foundation for respect between our community and policy makers. This is why MPAC meets with Members of Congress everyday- to show them that American Muslims are willing to help on health care, taxes, national security- and every other issue that affects Americans.
This is why MPAC creates relationships with studios, so that before a script is finalized for shooting, producers call us to ensure it accurately portrays Muslims. And MPAC continuously thinks of the future generations, and invests in creating the next generation of leaders through our Congressional Leadership Development Programand Young Leaders Summit.
There are many ways that you can be proactive. This election season is a chance to be proactive. Choose a campaign to work for. Host a fundraiser. Attend a candidate’s town hall and express your views. And, of course, vote.
Proactive actions can be done by supporting institutions, like MPAC, that work every day to inform Members of Congress, work with federal agencies, and head campaigns to influence public perception of American Muslims. Support can be financial or as simple as attending an event.
Being proactive can be done on a local level. Attending your local zoning board meetings. Being part of your PTA. Having your neighbors over for dinner.
As a community, we must be both reactive and proactive. If one studies minority groups in American history, it is apparent that progress came from a steady, consistent effort to influence the coming generations. It behooves the American Muslim community to employ such a strategy.