Unfortunately Islamophobia is only increasing in some areas, however your fears needn’t keep you from exploring Allah’s vast creation as a traveler. These 7 tips will help you remember “Bismillah” and travel on.
“Do you ever get harassed for wearing your hijab while traveling?”
“I’m afraid for my parents to visit the U.S. because they look visibly Muslim, should we still come to America?”
As a travel blogger, I get questions like this at least twice a month. According to HuffPost “In the U.S 80 percent of news coverage of Muslims is overwhelmingly negative… and in the U.K., 70 percent of news coverage of the Muslim community in Britain has been hostile.” As a result, hate crimes against Muslims and Islamophobia have increased in the west and worldwide.
These statistics coupled with Islamophobic experiences make some Muslims hesitant to put ourselves out there, especially when traveling. This sad reality makes us take extra precautions just when going out, so especially when planning a trip to a foreign location. Because of all these factors, basic human rights such as moving about freely, traveling, or praying in public spaces is seen as a brave ordeal by many Muslims.
Despite the negative statistics of Islamophobia and knowing that the chances of getting harrassed or -God forbid- attacked for being Muslim are likely, I book a ticket and travel. I and many other “brave” Muslims do it. But, what makes us daring enough to do this? Aren’t we afraid?
Below I share with you what motivates me to keep traveling in the midst of this turbulent political Islamophobic climate.
1 – Saying Bismillah and putting my trust in Allah (duas):
My mom always says, “Whatever is destined for you will reach you no matter where you are.” Your time on this earth will come to an end whether you played it safe in life or took risks. That’s how I see life. So I might as well contribute to society and live a happy life. My family is big on duas. Whenever I go out, to ward me away from evil, I always recite:
I depart with God’s name, relying on Him, It is God who saves us from sins with His guidance.
Click here to learn the duas to say when traveling or visiting a new place. Duas are very powerful and we shouldn’t take them for granted. They protect us from forces beyond our human knowledge. If you are scared to travel or to even go to places in your local area, remember to say “Bismillah” and put your trust in Allah. He can protect us from anything.
2 – Researching about the location
Whenever you are going to any new location make sure to do some thorough research. Know the history of the place you are visiting. Find out their history with Islam, Muslims, how they treat the minorities of their countries, etc. Also, learn about their political situation. This information will give you a good overview of what to expect in a particular country. However, don’t let fear drive you away from visiting a country. Your fear for something bad to happen, while valid, it is usually rare. In most cases, the chances of experiencing a peaceful and enjoyable time in a new country are higher than not.
3 – Connecting with locals
You get a richer travel experience when you connect with locals in a new country. They can share with you their reality and can also tell you first hand where to go, what to do and what to avoid. Meetups, Hostels, Facebook groups, and many others are valuable online and offline communities to help you connect with locals.
4 – Finding Muslims in the area
Finding a Muslim local in the area as a Muslim traveler puts your mind at ease. You can get the inside scoop on what it’s like to be a Muslim in a particular country, how Muslims are treated, and ways to handle certain situations, etc. Also, the best part of connecting with a Muslim local is getting great tips for prayer and halal food. The local mosque is a great way to meet Muslim locals. Muslimahs Who Travel is an online platform that connects female Muslim travelers. Rihla Backpackers is another online group that connects both male and female Muslim travelers.
5 – Keeping up with current news
Although I am not always a big fan of the news due to its overload of negative content, it is important to check the current news from time to time especially when visiting a new location. Check the local and international news sources for coverage of where you are visiting.
6 – Prepare for handling confrontational questions and scenarios
As a Muslim traveler, you sometimes face unwanted confrontational situations or harassment. What do you do in such a situation?
If someone is shouting slurs at you or asking you rude questions; First ignore, especially if he/she isn’t threatening you with violence. If the situation is escalating or turning violent contact the police or security immediately.
Save the police number for the country you are visiting in your phone or in a digital cloud.
Know your rights as a tourist, contact your country’s embassy should any situation arise.
7 – Safety
Always put safety first and have your wits about you when traveling. If a place seems suspicious, listen to your instincts and don’t venture there. Make sure to know what the crime or safety situation is in a country and whether it’s safe to walk around at night. Don’t let strangers, taxi drivers, or even your social media following know where you are/will be residing during your vacation. If you can learn some basic self-defense skills you can find that handy. Malikah is an organization that trains women on self-defense. Check out their page to see if there is a self-defense workshop near you. If you don’t have any self-defense skills, you can get a mace.
These are some of the steps I take before and during a trip. They are what motivates me to keep travel. If you want to travel but feel scared to do so, start by going with a group of friends or family member. Whichever way you go about it, don’t let fear stop you from traveling. Remember, that Allah is always by your side.