Well, it’s been a little over a week since Trump came to office. Things were not okay for Muslims, immigrants, or people of color before he was in office. And things are worse now. In ways, shockingly worse. Many Muslim immigrants, among others, are already getting hurt–badly. I want to offer another post with ideas for action.
Again, to start, a disclaimer: I am one Muslim, and as a white U.S. citizen professional, born in the United States to U.S. citizen parents, I am one of the least vulnerable of all Muslims. Take my thoughts and suggestions as thoughts and suggestions from one person, not as truth, orders, “the voice of the community,” or anything else. But these are some of the actions that seem like good ideas to me, interspersed with ideas and perspectives from some of my Muslim friends and other community members. Suggestions for additions very welcome, especially from Muslims, people of color, and immigrants. And of course consider your own conscience, strengths, vulnerabilities, resources, and limitations in deciding which actions to take on.
- First and foremost, listen to Muslim immigrants in your own communities, and, if you can, do what they ask. Gently reach out to individuals you know and be willing to give whatever sort of support they want that you can handle giving, even if it seems “small.” This is really the most important thing. Tynan Power writes:
please don’t assume that all the Muslims you know are going to protests, leading organizing efforts, and eager to talk politics. I am witnessing many Muslims who are trying to just make it through the day, panicking, dealing with crises among family and friends, American citizens planning for how to safely leave the US if they have to. For many Muslims, the priority of the day is surviving and holding it together enough to get to work or school. Add to the stress we are under any intersectional identities: as queer or trans, as Black, as POC, as women, as people living with disabilities, as people living in poverty, and roles we play like caring for children or aging parents, supporting family in other countries, interacting as care providers (doctors, social workers, etc.) with people who are racist or Islamophobic … getting through the day may be all we can do….
So please: Do not assume everyone in your community feels safe and, when dealing with people more directly affected than I am, please be gentle and sensitive in how you convey your support and outrage. Ask how you can support them and, if you mean it, keep in mind it may not be (in that moment) “show up for a rally” but it might be “picking up takeout” so they don’t have to go out into a hostile-feeling community.
Another, A’isha Amatullah writes:
what muslims (esp. immigrant muslims and islamic organizations acting against these repressive measures) need from you is for you to listen to the needs of our communities and help in those ways, not make grand gestures that make you feel better about yourself.
people want to do sexy activism. they don’t want to do direct action protest (yet, but they say they will if a registry is instituted). they don’t want to drive folks to the immigration lawyer or the doctor or the masjid. they don’t want to help out with clothing or food donations. they are reluctant to donate money (if they have it) to organizations like cair and local masjids who are actually connected to immigrant muslims in the community and can provide direct service.
please listen and work towards doing effective activism, regardless of whether it is ‘sexy’ or makes you feel better about yourself. please actually contribute to things that will actually help immigrant muslims right now. please listen. please don’t assume you know what muslims need or that your way is the best way to help.
2. Support community organizations. As Muna Mire wrote in November, “[n]ow is the time to give money to the people defending Muslims against state sanctioned violence: CUNY Clear, DRUM, and Witness Against Torture are all groups doing good work on a smaller scale that anyone can support.” Above, A’isha recommended giving to CAIR or local masjids. Other places to consider include MPower Change; Arab American Association of New York; Muslim Justice League; Rahma; Karam Foundation; Queer Detainee Empowerment Project; Black Youth Project 100; Southerners on New Ground; Al-Qaws, Muslim Community Network, American Muslim Community Centers, and Families for Freedom.
3. Support Muslim, immigrant, and people of color-owned businesses.
Want to show support but can’t come for protests? Health conditions/ family duty/ restricted mobility preventing you from showing up? Are you one of the marginalized in this situation and is this preventing you from showing up? Do you want to donate to all the organizations/people doing the work but are broke and just trying to make ends meet? Students? So many valid reasons and I hear you.
Here is what else you can do:
*Shop at your local Immigrant grocer/ Immigrant owned market.
*Buy that quick fix water/ chips whatever at you know that brown owned corner store- they’re everywhere!
*Buy that cotton candy from the most probably undocumented person selling it on their feet at the traffic intersection.
*If you eat out, this is your chance to try all that Immigrant owned “ethnic” food restaurants, we come from all over with variety of food/ gluten-free/ veg options that actually has some taste to keep you full and providing you enough nutrients to keep you through the next round of hunger games.
*Buy that fresh fruit from the street vendor for your daily vitamin D because the sun is done.
*A lot of immigrants are small business owners (contrary to the popular belief that they take jobs, they don’t stand a chance to get hired in the first place unless for less than min. wage) so this is your chance to find that Immigrant owned small business to spend your money, there are plenty of neighborhoods that have a variety of goods/ services to cater your needs.
*This list goes on but you should know where to find us, we are mostly visible or you can also spot us with an accent if you are lucky.
*Need something specific and can’t find a business? Ask your Immigrant friends and we have contacts to hook you up, our algorithms are magic cause we built algebra.
If the labor is Immigrant the money should support the Immigrants. Pledge to do this, until it is a habit. It shouldn’t cost you more and you get a boost of dopamine right after.
Show up in all possible ways! We are all around you and we also want assurance that you have our back. Don’t wait for a fancy article! We are running out of time.
4. Protest. Taking to the streets, the airports, the parking lots, or wherever else has value. It may help some targeted people know that they are not alone and forgotten. It may give more people courage to take action. It may help you connect with others, build relationships, and learn of more ways to act. It may pressure people in positions of power to rethink their positions. It may let people know about what is going on if they haven’t already heard. A list of actions happening today and in the next few days is here. If you are organizing a planned protest, check out the suggestions at #accessibleorganizingmeans. And try to be thoughtful about relative risk. If you are organizing an action with a bunch of non-Muslims, don’t plan a march in the middle of a Muslim neighborhood unless neighborhood organizations and people there have asked you to do so. Rather than supporting folks, it may end up leaving them to do deal with litter and increased police presence.
5. Civil disobedience. Civil disobedience can sometimes work better than other forms of protest because it can attract more attention, increase the costs of carrying out unjust actions, and delay or even stop harm. It also often carries greater risk. Participants often expect to be arrested, fired from their jobs, or put in solitary confinement. Civil disobedience can be large or small, planned or spontaneous. It can be a police officer refusing to follow unjust orders, a janitor opening an emergency exit to let someone take shelter, a group of people staging a sit-in at a government building, a group of people chaining themselves in the way of a bus carrying immigrants scheduled for deportation, a group of people in prison refusing to line up for count until a sick person gets medical care, or any number of other things. An extraordinary movement, #Not1More, has been organizing civil disobedience to stop deportations for years. Another extraordinary movement, #BlackLivesMatter, has used civil disobedience among other tactics to disrupt business as usual and demand an end to state violence against Black people. To learn more about civil disobedience, listen to those who have done it before and check out online resources like the ones here and here.
6. Social media activism. Some people say that things like tweets and online petitions don’t matter. They certainly are not enough alone, but neither is any other single tactic. At its best, I think social media can do everything that live protests can do. Not1More often has important current petitions to support immigrant justice on their website. When it’s impossible to get through to elected officials in other ways, tweeting at them or commenting on their facebook pages may get some attention. Many people have been tweeting at #MuslimBan and #NoBanNoWall in the last few days to share information and mobilize. I have also heard a call for U.S. citizens to tweet supportive or even irrelevant messages at #UndocumentedAndUnfraid; apparently immigrants who have tweeted with that hashtag have started to get targeted. #IMarchwithLisa has become popular to show support for Linda Sarsour, a Muslim Palestinian American woman and community organizer who has been targeted by the right.
7. Bystander intervention. Try to help when violence unfolds around you, whatever the source. Muna Mire wrote: “When the time comes, use your own body to protest and vocally interrupt any prospect of renewing a registry; intervene with your body if you see someone experiencing harassment. Learn to de-escalate. Especially if you are visibly non-Muslim…. Begin to take risks in solidarity with your community; know that wherever you are, Muslims are a part of that community.” Many places are offering bystander intervention training, including Jewish Voice for Peace and Arab American Association of New York.
8. Open ears and open hearts. Particularly if you are a white U.S. citizen non-Muslim who is new to activism, try to stay present and let go of any guilt, defensiveness, or anger that may come up when others share frustration or critique. Many people who have been doing social justice work for a long time are having mixed feelings at the moment–feeling both thrilled that so many people are getting involved now and resentful that they weren’t involved earlier, when lives were already on the line. Try to listen calmly, focus on what you can learn, and keep taking action. People sharing frustration or critique are not the enemy, and wallowing in guilt never got anyone anywhere.
9. Take care with the information you share. Before explaining what a particular policy or decision means in practice, I recommend checking your information with multiple recent reliable sources. Also, I suggest not telling Muslims or people from targeted countries what to do. I have seen things floating around online saying that you should “advise” your friends in the U.S. from Yemen, Syria, Somalia, Iraq, Iran, Lybia, or Sudan not to leave. It’s true that if they leave they very well may never be able to come back. But I would never tell a Yemeni friend whose mother is dying in another country that she should stay here. I would never tell a Somali friend that she shouldn’t consider fleeing somewhere outside the U.S. if conditions here just seem too unsafe. I would offer to help her research and think through the risks. I would support her in whatever she decided to do. But I like to think I would have a smidgen of humility and not tell her what to do.
10. There are many other ways to take action, like boycotting companies that support and collude with the ban (uber is one target); supporting sanctuary efforts; pressuring Congress to counter Trump’s actions (one bill to support is S. 54, which would prohibit the creation of an immigration related registry based on religion, race, or several other factors); keeping an eye out for relevant proposed regulations here and commenting on them; and offering your skills (for lawyers who want to volunteer, one place to sign up is here; legal observers trained by the National Lawyers Guild are also in demand at many protests).
It’s also helpful to keep learning. In books, I recommend The Muslims Are Coming by Arun Kundnani, Arab and Arab American Feminisms edited by Rabab Abdulhadi, and Undoing Border Imperialism by Harsha Walia. In journalism, I recommend Muna Mire, and she recommends Aviva Stahl and Talal Ansari.
But again, most importantly, let’s all work on listening.