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How Should New Muslims Deal with Racism?

Racism is the hatred or intolerance of other races.

This definition alone emphasizes the gravity of racism that human beings can hate and be completely intolerable of each other just because of the difference of their skin colors or the religion they are attributed to.

To be completely honest, I don’t agree with the term race when referring to another person. I find the word very derogatory and almost savage. As human beings, are we savage? Would God have created us to be savage?

No, because God makes no mistakes. We are all His creations, so does it matter if you are black, white, purple, blue or pink! It doesn’t.

To love God you have to love all of His creation. There are many hadiths emphasizing the importance of love for one another.

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Abu Hurayrah reported that Prophet Muhammad said:

By the one who has my soul in His hand, you will not enter Paradise until you believe, and you will not believe until you love one another.
Shall I point out to you something which will make you love one another if you do it?
Make the greeting of peace widespread among you. (Muslim)

Racism has been around for centuries with an early example being the treatment of the Jews by Pharaoh, the treatment of the black slaves and the treatment of the Jews in the Second World War. All of these acts of racism were because of either an individual’s color or religion.

Perhaps you would think that with society becoming more modern, people’s awareness of racism and people understanding of religion or nationality that racism would decrease.

Sadly, this is not the case and racism is still at an all-time high with every one everywhere having experienced racism at least once in their life, whether directly or indirectly.

By directly I mean to have been verbally or physically abused simply because of your nationality or religion. Indirectly is to have witnessed racism but never had racist actions directed at you personally.

The Media

The main factor which contributes to spreading Islamophobia and racism is the media. Don’t get me wrong, although there are many positive anti-racism campaigns around, many newspapers represent Islam and Muslims in a very negative light.

Many things that people read can give them certain prejudices about a group of people or simply create a stereotype which can lead to racism.

Let’s be honest, there isn’t much we can do about the media, there is no real way of controlling it, but there are ways of coping with racism received from the media.

The obvious is: don’t buy newspapers or magazines that represent a nationality or a religion in a distasteful way; you are funding them if you do.

Read: Islam Towards Racism, Discrimination and Bigotry

Second, don’t waste your time watching TV shows that joke about certain religion or groups of people. It is not uncommon for comedians to make jokes at Islam’s expense, but by watching them you’re upping their viewings and funding their lifestyle.

By avoiding certain media sources you can protect yourself from becoming victim to racism.

Many people’s behaviors have a lasting effect on others, and it is not uncommon for a person to have racist views or opinions simply because of one bad experience they had with a Muslim.

Therefore to try and change a person’s views on Islam or Muslims it is important to always be aware of your actions and how you’re behaving, as your actions can have long lasting effects on them, so why not make them good actions?

I am aware that I am focusing largely on what you can do to help change people’s opinions and to do this and do that, but I believe if you have been subjected to racism it’s not your fault.

There are many ways to cope with racism; one of them is to try to change people’s views. This doesn’t always work and I would know as I myself have been subjected to racism, more since I became a Muslim but also before when I was a young child.

Between France & the UK

When I was younger, I lived in France. All was well until I went to secondary school then people had problems with me being English. This torment went on over a period of months and in the end my family and me left France and returned to England. We ran away.

Don’t ever run away, seek help. You are not the one with the problem, so why should you leave? Only leave if there is a direct threat to your safety. But remember you’re not alone and there are always people available to help that specialize in areas like this. And in most countries in the EU (European Union) racism is a crime and the responsible people will be sanctioned, so never be afraid to seek help.

After coming to Islam, living in the UK in Sheffield which I feel is a multi-cultural city, I did experience some racist remarks until my marriage to my Pakistani husband. People often associate Islam and hijab to terrorism due to media misrepresentations.

My lowest moment was when I had been Muslim about a month and started wearing my hijab in college. At the time I was studying psychology, I walked into the classroom a little late and the teacher was discussing abnormality. She made an example of me in front of the whole class because I was wearing hijab saying:

“Diva was normal last week but is abnormal this week”.

I ran out in tears but I let her get away with it because I felt like I was the one who had changed so maybe she was right, I was abnormal. So, I realize now I wasn’t abnormal, I was normal; I was just a better version of me, Alhamdulillah.

Read: Racism Can Only Be Cured by Islamic Virtues

Never allow yourself to feel that racism is your fault. It isn’t. The person that is being racist is the one with the problem. The way I cope with racism now is to simply correct people politely. Don’t argue and above all remember that it is a test from God, and He tests those whom He loves most. So turn to God when your heart is weak and sad and surely He may ease your troubles.

Other simple things you can do to cope with racism is move to a multicultural area in your city to be surrounded by a variety of people and the chances are they are much less likely to be racist towards you as they will have already had contact or relationships with Muslims like yourself.

Don’t segregate yourself because of the fear of racism. Try to mix and be actively involved in the community around you. So people will see you are not a monster as the media portrays you.

In the meantime, I pray that God keeps you all safe and eases your troubles in sha’ Allah.

(From Discovering Islam’s archive.)