Nada Mousa is a politics and culture lead writer for MuslimGirl.com, the world’s leading platform for Muslim Women voices.
On March 15, 2019, the Muslim community lost 51 beautiful worshipping souls to a terrorist attack. As the world continues to cope and heal from this crime on humanity, people globally are discussing ways to be the best ally for the Muslim community; especially for Muslim women and nonbinary folks.
According to a recent Pew research study, 75 percent of adult Muslims say there is "a lot" of discrimination against the Muslim community. Among those are Muslim women. By wearing physical markers, such as the hijab, Muslim women are increasingly targeted.
But all hope is not lost. Allyship and comradery are the strongest tools we have to use in the face of growing islamophobia. For example, in the wake of the New Zealand attack, New Zealanders could be found guarding mosques, wearing hijabs in solidarity, and condemning heinous acts of hatred. In this instance, the world watched allyship play out on a mass scale as people across racial, religious, and political backgrounds bonded together in the name of peace.
Such visible demonstrations are just one type of allyship. To ensure continued support for Muslim women and nonbinary folks and in commemoration of the third annual Muslim Women’s Day, 10 Muslim voices share their advice for being an ally. Through their stories and insights, we are reminded that Muslim women and nonbinary folks were made vulnerable by an unjust system and that, truly, they are not inherently weak.
"If you want to eradicate Islamophobia and white supremacy, then wearing hijab in solidarity can represent your personal rejection of these concepts. However, this act alone is not enough to uproot systemic oppression and racism. New Zealand shows us how a multi-faceted and unified rejection of these ideals can be possible and can more effectively start a movement toward eradicating these societal ills. Label perpetrators of violence as terrorists (regardless of race, creed, or religion). Reject and remove political ideologies which continue the cycle of hate at the polls and through in-person and online protests. Organize alongside and follow the lead of the oppressed sisters and brothers you profess to uplift. Their voices must be heard and valued for real change to occur.”
"Allyship can start with a simple acknowledgement of feeling hurt from seeing other people hurt. This basic seed when nurtured turns into actively educating ourselves on histories and systems that have perpetuated violence against particular groups which has manifested itself in different ways during our present. After understanding the histories, it’s just as important to understand our own positioning in the world to that history.
You can ally in the following ways: Move away from politicizing Muslim women’s clothing — they’re still Muslim and you have no right to politicize, condone or condemn, sexually harass, and determine their right of expression, stop perpetuating the idea that long sleeved clothing is an anti-harassment antidote and do support Muslim women scholars and academics! Read their works, engage with their research, and treat them as equal authority on Muslim matters as we do men."
“Being an ally is not just reaching out to them when an incident like the Christchurch shootings occur, but making a real effort to understand their religion, culture, [and] life choices rather than judging from a distance. Wearing the hijab for a day, befriending their kids in the neighborhood, getting people in the community together to write petitions to the local Congressman/woman and basically standing up for them when they come across any instance of racial profiling/slurring against them are all great examples.”
“As a Muslim American woman descended from a family that is celebrating, in 2019, 60 years in the United States, I have encountered many allies in my life’s journey. I found one notable ally while interning at the civil rights office of a Federal agency. She took an interest in me, that my younger self did not at first recognize, [...] since she was a senior official in the organization. She respected my faith and ensured that I was comfortable in my work environment. She delegated her subordinate managers to mentor me and became the catalyst for my current Federal career. This blessing and opportunity that this ally gave me reminds of the following saying from the Holy Quran 65:3, "And [God] will provide for a person from where [he/she] does not expect."
"There’s a healthy balance between standing up for us and completely taking control of OUR issues. We really appreciate people standing up for injustice with us but please don’t speak FOR us in issues that directly concern Muslim women, this goes for Muslim men too. When it comes to issues that affect our lives, reach out to us and open the conversation”
“Don't let others, especially the media or Islamophobes, define who Muslim women are. Muslim women are a vastly diverse group, with a multitude of different opinions and ideas. We are often just trying to live normal lives just like everyone else and we have similar struggles as anyone else. I definitely think we Muslim women are a strong bunch. We have to deal with not only the scrutiny that already comes with being a woman in EVERY culture, but we also get a lot of flack from other cultures too, since there is so much misinformation about us out there."
“Allyship is actually debated. In other words, many argue that the category of ally is usually counterproductive and performative; in that allies say ‘we support you, but we would rather not die alongside you’. Not all people are strong enough to do that, of course. What they can begin by doing is getting educated, and not speaking over Muslim women. Instead, as Malcolm X suggests, and many others since then, TALK TO YOUR PEOPLE.
We cannot safely sit at your dinner table, explaining that we are not terrorists. But you can. because your uncle, grandmother, father, or best friend, could be saying "well the Muslims deserved it, what goes around comes around." you can explain the history. Especially in the U.S.-context, start by considering Black women first. This is because the first Muslims in America were Black, but are still erased and ignored in mainstream discourse and conceptions of Islam. Furthermore, African American theorists of all faiths have made incredible and foundational contributions, many of which directly apply to the question of allyship for Muslim women
If you want to be an "ally," you have to give up some of your privilege, so that those with less privilege than you can perhaps survive another day.”
“I remember a day when I had to walk home alone across campus; this was after the 2016 election, and tensions were high! A random passerby spat words of hate as I walked passed him. ‘Go home and out of our country... America will be great again without you”. My heart raced, but I soon found myself surrounded by people who yelled back and offered to walk me to my dorm room. This is what allyship looks like to me. That group of girls are my allies, friends, and fellow Americans."
“When non-Muslims think of Islam, I think it’s safe to say one of the first things they think of is women wearing hijab. And while it’s not true that every Muslim woman wears hijab and it’s not true that that’s all there is to Islam, I don’t blame people for that being the first thing to come to mind. Personally, when I saw that non-Muslim women all over New Zealand were embracing hijab for a day I was elated, and the images I saw from that day were haunting in a good way. These women, although there was just a week before a terrorist attack aimed at Muslims, took it upon themselves to put themselves in danger by wearing a symbol of Islam. They wanted to show support for us in the best way they knew how, and they did it quickly. Such unity has been born from such tragedy, and it personally makes me feel like maybe, just maybe, we’re getting somewhere.”
These powerful Muslim voices encourage all of us to find strengths within ourselves so that, together, we may combat bigotry. With their tips and advice, you can transform into the best ally for Muslim women and nonbinary individuals.