CAIRO – In a bid to break stereotypes about Muslims, two American women have launched a project to educate the public about the true Islam, promoting tolerance and understanding in a time when politics are demonizing the religious minority.
“Telling people’s stories is so powerful,” Aubrey Seader, who is not a Muslim, told Indiana Daily Student News on Tuesday, March 8.
“They break down barriers so much more than them having to explain themselves.”
Seader works with Anna Maïdi, a Muslim, in Muslims of Bloomington project that is part of the Openhearted Campaign seeking to promote tolerance and understanding of Muslim Americans.
Telling the stories of local Muslims, the project consists of two smaller branches; The Hijab Diaries, and the Muslims of Bloomington Blog.
The dailies feature Muslim women from the Islamic Center that speak of their lifestyle and experiences with prejudice while the blog features the stories of other Muslims in a style similar to Humans of New York.
“The goal of the project is to help people get to know Muslims,” Maïdi said.
“A lot of people in the United States probably don’t know a Muslim, and when you don’t know someone that is a part of a particular group, and you hear a lot of misinformation about that particular group, especially negative misinformation, it’s easy to fear that group.”
The project, which began in January, is owned by the Islamic Center of Bloomington, Seader said.
“These are my people, and the only way that I can do my duty for these women, and for our whole community as Muslims, is to reach out to people and help them get to know us,” Maïdi said.
“If people know us then they’re not going to be afraid of us, and if we know people then we aren’t going to be afraid of them. Even if it’s a drop in the bucket, I’m helping remove some of that fear.”
Fighting hate and Islamophobia was not an easy task for both women who had fears of growing hostilities.
“I think it’s going to be really hard for both of us,” she said.
“I am Muslim, so if we get hostility, that’s against me too. It’s not just against my project, it’s against everything I believe.”
Seader also said she was worried about hostility aimed at members of the Islamic faith.
“Before I did this project, I didn’t know many Muslims personally,” she said.
“Now that I’m doing this project, and I’ve had a chance to know members of the community, I worry about them.”
Planning an open door at the Islamic Center next April 10 would offer people to come and get to know Muslims in a better way.
“We’re just normal,” Maïdi said.
“I feel like people think we’re mysterious and questionable, and I’m just a regular mom, and wife, and sister that loves people and loves the world and that wants to be a part of it. When someone looks at me with a skeptical eye, I’m just so confused, because what I think is, ‘I’m just like you.’”