In 2017, fighting the Muslim registration program will define our community.
Don’t be fooled by the fact that President Barack Obama dismantled the registration mechanism. President-elect Donald Trump, as promised, can reinstitute that program in a minute.
However, it is not the registration of those Muslims visiting the United States that is the major threat, but the registration of American Muslims which is the more serious one. The President-elect has appointed people who are preparing for it. Any major terrorist attack will kick that program into high gear.
As Muslims, we must pray for the best but prepare for the worst - with full and complete trust in God.
Each one of you needs to personally tweet, write to, and meet with your congressperson. Then, you must bring together delegation after delegation, write memo after memo for Masjid delegations and your community allies. All of them should focus on one thing for your Congressperson to sign on a “Dear Congressman/Congresswoman” letter asking to sponsor a non-partisan bill which puts a permanent end to the registration of American Muslims.
If you do nothing else from this list, do this one thing for Islam in 2017 at least.
As for the other things you can do for Islam in the coming year, please see this:
1. Become a better Muslim, a better neighbor, and an excellent American citizen
Muslims are sometimes asked, “Are you a Muslim or an American first?” This is meant to test - and to question - our loyalty. The fact is, that we aspire to be first-rate Muslims and a first-class American citizens, as well as excellent neighbors.
In 2017, we must strive to be all three, as they are interconnected. A Muslim who takes his or her faith seriously can never neglect the rights of neighbors, nor weaken and disparage the nation s/he belongs to - all while speaking the truth with wisdom and fear of no one but God Almighty. A Muslim who knows and is committed to the faith shows his or her sincere commitment to justice for all, and a desire to bring out the best of the nation.
Let us become first-class American Muslims in every sense of the term in 2017.
But these things may not go beyond a New Year resolution unless we develop a personal plan. So take this evaluation and these planning guides seriously to assess yourself. Where do you stand today? How do you plan to be a better Muslim, a better neighbor, and a better citizen in 2017?
You can also download this planning tip sheet for your masjid noticeboard.
2. Strengthen the family fort
As challenges mount, especially for Muslim youth and Muslim women, the family fort needs to become stronger, more connected, more intentional, and more productive.
Each family is different. So we believe nothing will strengthen a family more than thoughtful listening and thinking session together. We recommend each family run on a Shura model.
In your immediate family, sit down with your spouse and run a “marriage inventory” of the past year; do a “family inventory” with your kids. Reconnect with the family. Prayer brings love. Pray for a parent, sibling or relative you’ve been neglecting for the last few months or years. Seek forgiveness and forgive. Strong individuals and strong families are what strengthen the Muslim community and empower us to face our ongoing challenges and difficulties.
If our homes have become hotels with spouses, parents, and children rarely spending time talking, praying, discussing, and eating together, this has to stop. Make this the year all of you truly connect as part of your higher commitment to Allah and the Muslim community.
If you love your family, you must invest in that relationship, especially with your time.
3. Watch out for and tackle bullying head on
Bullying of minority children has reached a crisis point in America, thanks to the 2016 presidential campaign. And bullying of Muslim children has gone up by 660%, according to Crisis Text Line.
I met a Muslim third grader who told me that everyone in his class knows all Muslims and all Latinos must leave the country. In 2017, it is imperative that we carefully monitor and support young Muslims through this painful reality.
In specific, we must not only reconnect on a personal level with our children by being listening parents, but it is imperative that we look out for signs of bullying, depression, and anger. We must also be on guard for suicidal behavior, as well as possible radicalization by extremists, who capitalize on Muslim disenchantment to recruit to their criminal ranks.
In addition, it is critical that we invest time in meeting with the principals, teachers, PTAs, and boards of our children’s schools to ensure a safe, respectful, and positive learning environment for all. Please note that 20% of those bullying children are teachers.
Bullying is not just something kids experience in real life. The online world is the new bastion of this plague, and we must keep an eye out for this on our children’s social media accounts and in their texts.
Seeking professional mental health support is necessary in cases where clinical depression and suicidal tendencies are found. But making the home a place of refuge, safety, love, and security also help young Muslims handle bullying better.
Finally, do not hesitate to report threats to police if the school is not handling the situation appropriately. Bullying has had life and death consequences. Physical and sexual assault must be reported.
Sound Vision is working with a number of agencies to bring their crisis hotline services to Muslim youth. If you are interested in volunteering for or funding this project, please fill out this form.
4. Invest in politics!
It is politics which raised hate, fear and, anger in America. But we hardly have any investment in this area. While there are thousands of Muslims working full-time for relief organizations, Masjids, and schools, we barely have any full- time staff working to empower the Muslim community through politics.
Islamophobia is a product of the political weakness and relative isolation of our community. As we empower ourselves with a higher level of civic engagement, we will be able to challenge it successfully insha Allah.
If the 2016 presidential elections taught us one thing about political involvement, it is that participation at the national level is not enough. Muslims must become more involved in local politics, starting with school boards and their neighborhoods. These offer the chance to get involved at a grassroots level, which is the true source of building a better America.
If you want to run for office but don’t know how to run, or how to organize your campaign, we can connect you with those who can train you. Please sign up here.
All surveys show that people who know a Muslim have a better opinion of Islam and Muslims. Civic engagement is a great way to meet, network, and develop a relationship with others.
5. Reorganize your time and donations
We are in a serious crisis, and we request all Muslims to reconsider their time and money commitment for 2017. It cannot be business as usual. We need to fight for our rights, stand with those who stand with us, take care of our neighbors, as well as our youth. This will require us to rethink where we put our time and our money.
Muslims have always been a generous community. However, 90% of our money and volunteer time we estimate goes to Masjids and disaster relief. But we are facing a disaster right here. Will we remain first-class citizen of the United States as it struggles with fear, hate and anger?
We must also invest in our allies. It has been African-American congresspersons who countered and silenced Peter King which he started McCarthy-style hearings against Muslims a few years ago. How much do we invest in that relationship? The NAACP has been one such historic organization. Latinos, like Muslims, are on the chopping blocks. What is our investment in developing a relationship with the community when they are in need. LULAC, and NCLR are two such organizations Muslims can volunteer for and help support financially. The labor movement fights for workers’ rights. Muslims need to develop relationships there as well. ARISE Chicago and Interfaith Worker Justice are two such groups in this area.
Instead of just donating, we recommend meeting with each group, understanding their plans and priorities, and then collecting funds from friends, family or the Masjid to donate together on the regular basis.
The Muslim Legal Fund of America can be funded better to fight cases which are criminal cases but with civil rights implications.
6. Adopt a media outlet
Muslims, like all Americans, love to hate the media.
Americans' trust in mass media "to report the news fully, accurately and fairly" has dropped to its lowest level, at 32%, in Gallup polling history.
But the media’s work has real consequences for Muslims. According to the last survey available, the approval rating of Muslims stands at 17%. When the survey asked Americans why they have
a low opinion of Muslims, they pointed to the media.
And although Americans don’t trust the media, television, radio, and newspaper publications (both print and online) are still major sources of news, with 57% saying television is their main source of news.
Each Muslim needs to take personal charge of this work, and each Masjid needs to focus on at least one media outlet.
Always remember that the media is made up of humans, and relationships matter a great deal. You can influence them. Reporters appreciate it when you get to know who they are and what they care about.
Regularly tweet, call, text, and email when something is misreported. But also make sure to praise correct and good reporting. Both are needed to make journalists and editors understand that responsible citizens are keeping their eyes on them, and to ensure that we maintain responsible media coverage.
Here are some tips on how to adopt a media outlet and influence them.
If you would like to be a part of our media adoption team and would like to stay in touch, please connect with us here.
7. Alleviate your neighbors’ fears about Islam and Muslims
Forgive me if this sounds crass, but our neighbors don’t want to learn about the five pillars of Islam. They want reassurance that Muslims will not kill them.
Most Americans do not personally know a Muslim and the majority get their information about us from news that mentions Muslims almost exclusively in relation to terrorism on Western targets.
When you connect with your neighbor it provides them an opportunity to know that you dislike terrorists more than they dislike them.
Reaching out to neighbors in this context has never been more important. And this goes beyond exchanging greetings and pleasantries. Practicing the level of respect and love that Islam enjoins on us toward neighbors has never been as important. This isn’t about image control. It’s about doing what we should have been doing for years. In 2017, let us make this an urgent priority.
Check out Sound Vision’s brochures, which are available free for you to distribute to your neighbors, at your school, or a nearby church.
Once you and your family sit down to develop plans for the next year, think of every neighbor, house by house, and think of how to relate with them.
8. Uphold the Constitution
Khizr Khan became a media sensation when he pulled out his pocket U.S. Constitution last July during a speech at the Democratic National Convention. But this was not an act of artifice for emphasis. This is something dear to him, as he routinely gives out America’s most important legal document. The Gold Star father is on to something that all American Muslims should heed in 2017: Uphold our Constitution.
For Muslims, the Constitution’s First Amendment guarantees our right to freedom of religion. In the coming year, expect more legal and cultural challenges to this right under the new government. We must resist this not only for ourselves and coming generations of American Muslims, but for all Americans.
In specific, it is imperative that we invest in organizations that will support our constitutional rights individually and as a community. Muslims are a primary target of the incoming government, and we cannot face this challenge alone. We must give more generously than ever for the protection of the very basic rights we have taken for granted as a community: Freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of assembly. All three of these are in jeopardy.
Some practical things we can do include becoming a member of the American Civil Liberties Union, as well as speaking up when we see bigotry and hate directed at religious groups, whether that is denying permits to houses of worship, or challenging media coverage that incites hate crimes.
9. Report hate crimes
Too many Muslims feel embarrassed about being targeted by hate crimes. This embarrassment translates into not doing anything about it, more specifically, not reporting it. This in turn feeds into Islamophobes’ lie that Islamophobia is a myth. In 2017, make sure to report every hate crime you or your loved ones experience.
Reporting Islamophobia has two benefits. The first is a recognition that the problem exists. The
second is that legally and culturally, we can take effective action against it once it is recognized. We cannot do the latter until the former takes place.
CAIR needs to develop a better system for recording complaints by Muslims. We need to specifically fund their incident report collection system along with their civil rights division.
10. Liberate yourself from cynicism and conspiracy theories
Last but not the least, nothing paralyzes a person more than cynicism and conspiracy theories. We must rely on God with Sabr (patience) and Tawakkul (trust) as we do our job hoping and praying for change. But there are ideologies and groups which take advantage of this difficult time, diverting attention away from action to conspiracy theories and skepticism towards political empowerment. Watch out for these.
Resist the urge to fall into cynicism, negativity, and pessimism. This is not befitting of the believer, who maintains optimism and hope in Allah’s Mercy, Love, Compassion, and Wisdom in all circumstances - even post-election America.
It is also more important than ever to commit to truth and relying on correct information. There is a crisis of “fake news” in America today. Be careful about reading, absorbing, and sharing information from the right sources. Reject conspiracy theories and half-correct information that confirms your viewpoint.
Islam needs forward-thinking and solution-oriented believers committed to truth-telling and honesty. Pessimism leads to paralysis. We cannot move forward in 2017 unless we maintain hope - as we must.
God has made each one of us a responsible being. We simply cannot leave what is critical to someone else. By adopting these and other action items, while also motivating the rest of your family and relatives to join in, you can become an engine of change yourself.
Don’t’ despair. Muslims are moving forward Alhamdu lillah. Never in the history of American elections have Hijabis been used as a symbol of diversity. And the candidate who did that is the same one who refused to accept Muslim funding when she was running for Senate a few years ago. Muslims are moving forward in different fields. We have doubled the number of our mosques. We have quadrupled the number of our schools. We donate billions of dollars every years to good causes. We are moving forward.
All we need to do is to rethink our priorities and plan to meet the new challenges.
May Allah be with us all.
Source: by Abdul Malik Mujahid - Sound Vision
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