In the name of God, the most merciful, the most Compassionate.
A number of non-Muslim people have asked me for what I want and need in this moment, and how they can help. I have generally brushed aside those questions. But I just spent a a chunk of last night pacing the apartment and thinking about possible registration, and I realize there are some things I would like to ask for.
Before I go ahead, I need to emphasize that I am just one person, and not one of the Muslims likely to be most affected by the intensified anti-Muslim bias, Islamoracism, and white Christian supremacy of this time. Contrary to popular belief, a single Muslim does not and cannot speak for anyone else, much less for all other Muslims. These are just my personal thoughts, ideas, and desires, and you should listen to many, many other Muslims and your own heart before deciding what–and what not–to do.
- If/when Muslims or others have to hide out or flee the country, help. Open your home, open your wallet, and close your mouth. Be brave, be generous, and be quiet. Do not let an atrocity be committed against someone you could have helped.
- If you were fired up to take action against the registry of all Muslims in the United States, do not for one SECOND consider taking any less action or objecting with any less fire against a registry that would “only” reach a more vulnerable subset of Muslims, like Muslim immigrants. If you do not know what Special Registration was and what it did from 2001 to 2011, learn about it now. If it somehow seems harder to you to impersonate an immigrant than to impersonate a Muslim, think for a second about why that is. (Looking at someone or hearing their voice does not tell us where they were born or what “status” the government has accorded them, any more than it tells us what beliefs they hold.) If it somehow seems more acceptable to you for the government to do this “only” to Muslim immigrants, ask yourself some hard questions about why, and consider how you might unlearn any nativism or racism that you have internalized.
- That said, I have mixed feelings about the incredibly moving tactic that so many Jewish people in particular have committed to take, which is to register right along with Muslims. I fear that those who want to register, lock up, deport, or kill Muslims would be equally delighted to register, lock up, deport, or kill Jews, and maybe even those who support Muslims and Jews. I don’t want that to happen. I mean, I don’t want any of it to happen. But it twists my heart to think that my Jewish family would get badly hurt for the sake of standing with me and my Muslim family–I want as many Muslims AND Jews as possible to survive, unsurveilled and in freedom, carrying forward the struggle. And I want people to be available to carry out #1 on this list.
- But that said, I cannot imagine, as a U.S. citizen Muslim, not standing in line to register alongside Muslim immigrants, if that is the shape a registry takes. Or at least, I can only imagine not standing in line if Muslim immigrants told me that it would be safer for them if I did not. So who am I to talk? We must follow our conscience and consider how we can be of the greatest service, striving to prioritize our compassion over our pride.
- EDIT: This request comes from a Muslim who was subjected to special registration from 2002-2011. Right now, please take the following actions:
- Send feedback to the Department of Homeland Security, encouraging it to dismantle NSEERS (the structure for special registration) right now, before it starts getting used again.
- Call Pres. Obama and ask him to instruct DHS to dismantle NSEERS.
- Call your representative and senators and ask them to end NSEERS legislatively, and to vigorously oppose any form of “registration” for Muslims or people from majority-Muslim countries.
- Resist all forms of anti-Muslim bias, Islamoracism, and white Christian supremacy. Help educate your friends. Look out for proposed anti-Muslim federal, state, and local laws (like this one in Georgia) and speak out against them. Write to the media protesting stereotypical and vilifying depictions of Muslims and Islam. Intervene if you see anti-Muslim hate violence happening. Question why your organization gives off for Christmas but not Eid, Diwali, or Rosh Hashana. And if you are not Muslim and are not from a majority-Muslim country, do not speak out against misogyny, heterosexism, and cissexism in Muslim communities and countries without also doing the following:
- Speaking out against misogyny, heterosexism, and cissexism in your own communities and country;
- Opposing U.S., Canadian, European, and Israeli military aggression against majority-Muslim countries, remembering that those interventions kill women and LGBT people and worsen their living conditions; and
- Providing meaningful support to women and LGBT-led organizations that are actually a part of those countries and communities, such as AlQaws for Sexual and Gender Diversity in Palestinian Society, Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, Association of Women for Awareness and Motivation (Pakistan); and Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq. Meaningful support means doing what those organizations actually request, not trying to “rescue” their members or tell them what to do.
- Donate to organizations run by and for Muslims in the U.S. too, preferably those that have a track record of centering leadership of women or LGBT people. This is far from a complete list, but it includes groups I personally admire.
- Donate to organizations that are run by and for the marginalized groups that many Muslims belong to (immigrant, Black, South Asian, Arab) –preferably those that have a track record of including Muslims and centering leadership of women or LGBT people. Again, this is a far from complete list (recommendations welcome).
- Desis Rising Up and Moving
- National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance
- Black Lives Matter
- Black Youth Project 100
- Arab American Association of New York
- Queer Detainee Empowerment Project
- Immigrant Youth Justice League
- Families for Freedom
- Karam Foundation
- Southerners on New Ground
- Post thoughtfully. On social media, consider the impact of the headlines and images you share. If you choose to post an article about some horrific anti-Muslim development from more than a month ago, acknowledge the time lapse in your description. If the image with the preview depicts some sort of violence, like the bloody body of a Muslim woman or scrawled hate speech on the side of a mosque, hide the image before posting. If you choose to post an article about a recent anti-Muslim development, make sure that the news source is reliable first and make it clear you oppose the development in your post. We are all scared and battered enough as it is–think about how to share information without needlessly escalating pain, fear, and misinformation.
- Help immigrants naturalize. Even if no registry exists at all, immigrants remain particularly vulnerable to nativist, racist, and anti-Muslim actions. While only a relatively small number of immigrants are eligible for citizenship, I think it makes sense to do everything possible to help those who are eligible and want to naturalize. Look for local groups where you can volunteer to help immigrants practice English, study for the citizenship exam, or fill out naturalization paperwork (make sure the group has the expertise to supervise you appropriately if you do not already have experience with this type of work). Listen out for people who do not qualify for a fee waiver but still cannot afford the hefty naturalization fees and offer to help. If people need rides to their naturalization interviews and you can help in that way, do it. Give money to organizations that assist people with naturalization, including small organizations that work with multiply marginalized immigrants (like the Sylvia Rivera Law Project). You do not need to be a lawyer to help.
- Check in with Muslims you know personally. Just ask how we are doing, and listen. If we ask for help, try to provide it, or say honestly that you cannot. Be in touch. Be friendly. But don’t tell us how scared we should be.