Global Islamophobia Awareness Day centers Muslim youth experience

Student activists observing the first Islamophobia Awareness Day in Seattle last May near Victor Steinbrueck Park. (Photo by Ayan Jama)
Student activists observing the first Islamophobia Awareness Day in Seattle last May near Victor Steinbrueck Park. (Photo by Ayan Jama)

Being a young Muslim in America right now isn’t easy. Not only has presidential candidate Donald Trump fanned the flames of anti-Muslim hate this past year, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) also found that mosques in the U.S. targeted for vandalism, intimidation and assault were at an all-time high in 2015.

With the rise of Islamophobia quickly becoming the norm, events like Global Islamophobia Awareness Day, which I will take part in with other Seattle student activists on Saturday, are a critical, missing piece of the conversation about Muslims in the U.S. and throughout the world.

I was confused what xenophobic people wanted from me after extremist attacks in Brussels, San Bernadino and Paris. An apology for actions I never caused? A pubic disowning of an entity that I had no association with?

Global Islamophobia Awareness Day is youth-led initiative created last year to end Islamophobia by debunking popular myths about the Muslim experience and educating people about what the Islamic faith truly teaches.

A worldwide Gallup poll found that 93 percent of Muslims weigh in as politically moderate, rejecting 9/11 and suicide attacks. Another poll found that Muslim Americans are more likely than other religious groups to reject attacks on civilians.

Even as recent polling suggests that we are not a threat overall, the reality of the the Muslim experience is still new to many Muslim youth who get hit with misconceptions and judgments about who we are every day.

Speaking from experience, with the rise of Islamophobia, my knowledge for my religion had to increase because of the constant questions and the defending I had to do of my own identity, culture and faith. I was confused about what xenophobic people wanted from me after extremist attacks in Brussels, San Bernadino and Paris. An apology for actions I never caused? A pubic disowning of an entity that I had no association with?

Then you hear about terrorist groups, manipulating and lying to recruit youth like me to make them believe that God wants them to commit acts of violence. This is quite funny to me: they are describing the same God who introduces himself as a God of mercy in the 113th of the 114th chapters of the Quran.

But people – Muslims and non-Muslims — need to understand our realities, big and small. Global Islamophobia Awareness Day not only allows people to meet everyday Muslims and understand what kind of Islamophobia we are facing, but provides a space for people to ask more controversial questions they’ve always wanted to ask,  like what we think about Islam’s stance on terror, and wearing the hijab head covering.

Last year on April 25th was the first time other students at Rainier Beach High School and I hosted Islamophobia Awareness Day at Victor Steinbrueck Park. We organized it in response to the Chapel Hill shooting earlier that February. After the event, we started conversations with mosques in Holland, Australia, London and Spain.

We got a range of responses overall.

.After KUOW published a piece about our event, an Islamophobic website that can no longer be found picked it up and started bashing our youth and community. They managed to get more than 1,000 hateful comments. It was scary because our faces were in the story. Here we were, a group of teenagers trying to change the world for the better being depicted as exactly what the West fears: evil Muslims promoting Jihad and terror. That was the exact reason why we held the event in the first place!

But to me, it was worth the risk, and shows that young Muslims putting themselves out there need all the support they can get. Plus, any people who attended the workshops last year had the opportunity to meet a real Muslim for the first time — not just someone they saw in on TV or in a mug shot on the news. They took the opportunity to understand the religion deeply. After the event, they wrote to us thanking us for teaching them and allowing them to see Islam and Muslims differently.

If you join us for Global Islamophobia Awareness Day on Saturday, I promise you’ll be grateful, whether it be for a better understanding of our religion and the 1.6 billion people following it — or for the amazing free grub we will grace you with!

Details about the event can be viewed in the flyer. 

1 Comment

  1. Hi Ahlaam,
    Azeb told me about you! We’re very interested in seeing if you would like to be part of a Peace Fellowship: you would think of a project you wanted to work on next year, along with 7 other young women, get training, and receive $1,000. Azeb only sent me this link, so I don’t know how to get ahold of you and time is of the essence. Can you call me?
    Thanks, Janis

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