Columnist discusses anti-Muslim protests, including the New Zealand attacks.
by Maya Mattan, ’20
In 2015, I witnessed my first ever anti-Muslim protest. In the corner of my eye, I saw a woman outside my mosque holding a sign with the word “Islam” crossed out in red. I had only seen and heard things over the news about these protests, but it’d never really hit close to home. And at that moment, as a bystander, I wanted to respond with outrage. How could someone have the audacity to stand outside my mosque and demean the religion that was such a significant part of me? However, my community took a different approach. As she was insulting our beliefs, they treated this woman with open arms, displaying the core values of Islam. She gave us a chance and quickly had a change of heart. Though we do not deal with blatant hate to our faces every day, we must always prove ourselves and reverse the stereotypes placed upon us.
49 dead, 20 seriously injured. On March 15, that was what the world saw. On every screen, every news channel and every media outlet. I watched on TV as anchors spoke of a mass shooting fueled by hate at two mosques in New Zealand. And I cried. Because they were Muslim. I cried because they were people. I cried because they were in a place where they were most vulnerable. I cried because they should have been safe and because a part of my ummah—Muslim community—had died.
Salat al-Jumu’ah: coming from the word jama’a, meaning to gather. Muslims touch elbow to elbow, shoulder to shoulder to pray to The Al-mighty. Where we unite every Friday, in Allah’s home. On that Friday afternoon, those Muslims were in congressional prayer. They welcomed the shooter with Salam, a peaceful welcoming gesture. And I will still continue to greet anyone who enters my mosque the same way.
The terrorist might have brought out fear in some people, but I urge you to not allow fear to take control over your faith. Although there was an exception on that Friday for security at my mosque, there is no guarantee that this will not happen again. I have never thought twice about entering my mosque and I never will, because my faith is too strong.