When I speak to groups through the Islamic Speakers Bureau of Atlanta (ISB) , I like to know what perception do they have of Muslims and Islam. I ask them what words come to mind when they hear the words Islam and Muslims. At times people want to be politically correct but I tell them that I have heard it all. This is when the 2 major negative perceptions come out – terrorists and women are oppressed.
Many Muslims think that the media is to blame for this. The media has a lot to do with it but we also must take responsibilities for our actions. People watch people and form perceptions. What does each one of us do to correct these negative images?
You and I have that power in many ways - each person we interact with and how we carry ourselves in public, how to treat others, how do we make others feel about us. The list goes on.
Here are some suggestions that many of you might be already doing:
Smile – in our tradition smiling is sadaqa. Smiling will go a long way. Bash that stereotype that Muslims are always angry. One of our dear speakers at the ISB once was told that he cannot be a Muslim because he smiled.
2. Treat family members with respect
Treat family members with respect – that is inside the house and outside. Be kind to them especially the women. I have witnessed Muslims joke about having 4 wives or write Facebook posts that talked so negatively about their wife and at the end they said that it is a joke. People might not get the joke and what sticks with them is a reinforcement of the stereotype. We need to raise our self awareness.
3. Be good to our neighbors
Be good to our neighbors. Again this is a sunnah of our beloved Prophet. We need to act on it. When our neighbors hear negative things about Muslims, they will say this is not true as my neighbor is a Muslim and he/she is not like that.
These are just a few examples of how each and every one of us can make a difference. Let’s all create an action plan for changing perceptions.
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