As Salaamu Alaikum and howdy all. Well, it’s Monday, and we can be happy that the protest in Phoenix was mostly peaceful and there was no violence and there were no arrests. There was even a very nice story about one of the protesters who accepted an invitation to go into the mosque.
Prior to the protest, I wrote saying that if I were there, I would provide cold water for the protesters and try to engage with them on a human level. I got a lot of support for my point of view, thank you all, and some criticism, and than you as well. Some scoffed at the idea of giving water or giving an ear to the protesters, saying that we needed to be very strong and protect ourselves, expecting the worst and considering that being all “I’d like to buy the world a Coke” was dangerously naive.
I have to say that the people espousing this opinion are not wrong. Anything could have happened at the protest. There were some 100% nutballs there, bedecked in camo (jungle stripes in a desert environment? You stand out like a sore thumb, buddy.) and toting weapons whose size was inversely proportional to the length of their penises. Ahem. All it would take is one guy firing his weapon to cause a deadly dangerous situation. As it was, the police did their jobs in an admirable and professional manner, and the counter-protesters were, well, just awesome. There was lots of shouting, prolific use of the f-bomb, and even an appearance of a big Nazi fellow complete with SS t-shirt. It was ugly, but it could have been far uglier.
I think the Muslim community did respond strongly to the protesters. So many individuals and groups condemned the protest, and the police were called, and the community was told to mostly pray at home and to not risk harm by coming to the masjid during that time. So all the protective stuff was done as best we could. In that circumstance, I still believe it made sense to send an envoy to approach the crowd and offer them a chance to start a dialogue. You can offer then it is up to them to accept or reject. And someone did offer, and someone did accept, and inshaAllah that person will at the very least alter his idea of Islam and Muslims, and perhaps Allah will guide him.
So, yes, I would still offer water. Don’t get me wrong. I’m no little hippie peacenik. As I commented on my Twitter feed during the online counter protest, I am a military brat who has handled many weapons and who has caused the demise of many a watermelon or old LP. I am a firm believer in the 2nd Amendment (with protections to keep the weapons away from those who shouldn’t have them), and if someone were to present a direct threat to my family, I would answer in a manner strong and fierce and final. The Ummah is my family, by the way.
Islam teaches us a range of responses to hatred and abuse. Our responses can range from dignified disregard, to polite engagement, to calling law enforcement, to arming brothers and sisters to guard outside our masaajid, to using self-defense to whatever extent is necessary to protect ourselves and others. I think the response to the protest in Phoenix was measured and correct. Allah blessed us with safety and no one was injured. At least one person was left a change man, at least a bit. So if anyone comes to my masjid to protest in such a manner, yes, I’ll be there with my cold water and kind words. Standing behind the police line. With my brothers and sisters and good people of all faiths at my back. Kumba-ya, but not stupid