By Eman Hassaballa Aly
As we come to the close of 2015, the world has seen much sadness and destruction. I’m not planning on making this a retrospective of the year’s tragedies, but I just want to focus in on one for the moment: Recently, when I was speaking to someone from Southern California, he said to me, [San Bernardino is] our 9/11.
A local tragedy became a national one in San Bernardino. Muslims were suspected to be the perpetrators of the crime, and so the issue became one that wasn’t isolated to just two crazy (more likely mentally ill) individuals. An entire group of people became implicated in the crime.
The aftermath of an attack at a holiday party in San Bernardino, California by a Muslim couple has created an atmosphere of hate and fear. The problem is that on paper, they looked like a normal Muslim couple. But digging deeper, it appears there was profound trauma that had little to do with religion. Since we’re headed into a Presidential election year, we’re seeing that the situation in far more acute way than any other time in the past since 9/11. Dalia Mogahed wrote about this years ago in the Atlantic, and it couldn’t be more relevant today. She also spoke about this on Meet the Press regarding the San Bernardino shooting.
Hate crimes against Muslims and people who are perceived as Muslim have gone up in recent weeks because of the media circus around the tragedy, irresponsible political rhetoric and social media echo chambers. But, the silver lining of this very dark cloud hanging over the country is seeing many of our fellow Americans speaking out loudly (here, here and here,) and clearly that the rhetoric is wrong.
But those voices are being drowned out by fear, which has over taken the narrative. There’s an abundance of news stories that are fueling the flames of this fear, and there’s a danger that all the good will happening will be consumed by those flames. This is why I’m writing to you today.
There’s a concept of khawf (fear) and raja’ (hope) with respect to our relationship with God, taught to me by my teachers. Muslims are expected to fear God’s punishment and balance it with the hope for God’s magnanimous mercy and reward.
It is a balance that must be maintained.
Too much hope, and one becomes complacent and sometimes lazy. Too much fear, and one becomes paralyzed from doing anything useful. And, I’ve seen how anxiety, a manifestation of fear, can press the pause button on rational thinking. Right now, we are overwhelmed with fear and anxiety. Women are afraid for their safety in the streets and some people are not even leaving their homes.
It is endless. Fear will drive us to do scary things to ourselves and others. It’s time to correct the imbalance. We are launching the Hope Initiative to help remedy this cycle we’re stuck in.
We want to spread hope to every corner of the interwebs to try to douse the fire of fear with cooling and healing streams of hope. People have been reaching out to American Muslims in ways that speaks volumes to the spirit of loving one’s neighbor. They are making us feel welcome, safe and secure. They are buying us coffee, and walking us to our cars. They are giving us hugs, and we want to say thank you. We invite you to share your stories as well. Post your stories to our Facebook page either in written form or record a short video.
Let us — and everyone — know of the hope washing over our world.
This is a special time for many of us: Hanukkah, Christmas and the birth of the Prophet Muhammad all are falling around the same time. It is not insignificant that the commemoration of the births of two of history’s greatest men falls within days of each other this year. According to Muslim tradition, there were no prophets between Jesus and Muhammad, peace be upon them both. They are that close in time and in lineage.
Our allies are coming out in droves, wearing headscarves in solidarity, hosting interfaith events and reaching out and picketing for us, among other things. It’s a beautiful thing. This year, there was a rare full moon that appeared on Christmas Day. We have a rare opportunity to change the narrative and shift the paradigm in this country back to one of plurality and tolerance. Join our Hope Initiative, as we highlight and applaud the efforts of Americans working together to make a better society.
The mission of the Hope Initiative is to give individuals, organizations and communities a platform to collaborate on and collecting existing resources and leverage partnerships around local and national issues. Learn more by clicking here.