Following terrorist attacks in the UK and France in past months, it is undeniable that there has been a rise in Islamophobia and in a backlash against Muslims. From insults and assaults, to a dramatic rise in acid attacks, the Finsbury Park mosque attack and an atmosphere of suspicion, as shown in a video released on Friday, where a brother was stopped and searched by police officers for wearing too many clothes; its natural for Muslims to start to feel wary about the streets they grew up.
So how should we cope in this climate heightened fear? Find some tips to below!
Do not be afraid
This is the most important tip.
As Muslims, our ultimate refuge is with Allah (swt). One of his beautiful names is Al Muhayminu – the Protector. Nothing can happen without His will. Trust in Him and do not let your fear of His creation overcome you.
Allah (swt) says in Surah Ahzab, verse 39:
“Allah praises those who convey the messages of Allah and fear Him and do not fear anyone but Allah. And sufficient is Allah to call men to account”
Make a habit of saying the duas for protection, such as Ayatul Kursi and the three “quls” everyday before leaving the house. Think of it as your armour around you, like an invisible bubble shield, and take confidence from it.
Having said that, not being afraid does not mean we should take needless risks. The incidents we are hearing about are documented, so do not ignore them and take precautions. Do not stay out too late after dark, whether male or female. Similarly given reports of acid attacks in cars, keep your windows up where you think it may be necessary. Do not walk around with your headphones in, blissfully ignorant of your surroundings. Make sure to inform others where you are going and keep in touch with family and friends when travelling, for your and their peace of mind.
Learn some basic self defence
You don’t need to be a black belt in taekwondo to defend yourself effectively. It can be as easy as taking some time to go through YouTube videos of defensive manoeuvres that are easy and impactful. There are many Muslim women who have also produced such video for specific encounters sisters may face, such as attackers pulling on their hijabs. The more prepared you are, the safer you will feel.
If something happens, film it
The power of social media is not to be underestimated. Numerous abusers, whether physical or verbal, have been caught by the police following footage of their offences going viral. Livestream incidents via Facebook to ensure the footage can be seen immediately. However, this is NOT a priority. Do not stay in a dangerous situation in order to get a record of it. Regardless of video evidence, make sure you report it to the police, and Muslim organisations that record hate crime.
Do not forward unconfirmed WhatsApp reports
I have seen too many people sending horrific stories of islamophobia only to end with “forwarded by a sister”. Without confirmation, every report is just that, a report. Unless you can confirm the incident is true, do not forward it and create unnecessary worry and panic in the community. As Muslim we are responsible for what we say, and Muhammad (saws) specifically referred to this situation in a hadith:
“It is enough lying for a man to speak of everything that he hears.” (Muslim)
Do not think of everyone on the street as a potential attacker. Despite a pretty huge rise in anti-Muslim hatred, plenty of people are equally appalled at the idea of complete strangers attacking us. Find common ground with other communities and take heart from those who do support us. Remember, this is also a fantastic opportunity to give dawah; not in simply being apologetic or trying to prove that Muslims are nice people too, but in talking to other people about Islam, its beauty as a way of life and the solutions it brings for all mankind.
Muhammad (saws) said:
“A time will come when holding onto Islam is like holding onto hot coals” (At Tirmidhi)
We may not have reached that stage of impossibility in practicing our Deen, but by recognising that this a test from Allah (swt), one that we will be rewarded for, we can successfully pass this trial for our community inshAllah.
Aisha Hasan is the founder of the Qarawiyyin Project. A Middle East researcher in London, she is also an aalima student and a Quran teacher. She has been active in the community for several years, appearing on television, radio shows and delivering talks at universities around the country.