Article Op-Ed

Candles, #Hashtags, and Catalyzing Change

Candles, #Hashtags, and Catalyzing Change

Author Sameera Omar by

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The Vigil

It was a blistering cold night and the wind’s tides were heavy, but this had not stopped the 150 or so of us who stood at Centennial’s edge packed tightly in a circle. As hoods were donned and numb hands stuffed in gloves, we waited in the light of Atlanta’s gleaming skyline. News cameras hovered at the fringes of the circle, focusing their lens on the handful of students holding large posters that read ‘STOP HATE CRIMES’ in large letters and ‘#ChapelHillShooting’. You could sense an air of vigor and patience pulsing through the crowd.

In the twenty minutes that followed, we heard from a Buddhist, a Hindu, a Jew, a Christian, and a Muslim. We heard prayers for hope and for tolerance. We heard poems and pleas for peace and words soaked in emotion. And in those final concluding moments when a chorus of voices joined in to recite Surah Fatiha, I couldn’t help but revel at this unity.

Vigils similar to this one have been cropping up throughout the country (and the world) these last couple days to commemorate the lives of Deah, Yusor, and Razan. They’re held in parking lots and parks, schools and college campuses. And perhaps the most invigorating fact is that they’re not limited in the diversity of their attendance. There is hope in that.

The Hype

This is a movement.
There is no doubt of this fact- anyone arguing otherwise is merely oblivious to the sheer numbers of supporters, the press releases, the service projects, the town halls, and the impressive eruption of social media. Like any other movement, its seeds have been sown from discontentment; there’s a clear recognition of a problem and an acknowledgement that change is needed. It’s connected and its branches reach an expansive network across the country ensuring a united impact. And like movements similar to it from the past, it’s surrounded by a thick cloud of hype.

Hype is necessary. It’s the first step to enabling change, because it bridges the chasm between ignorance and awareness. Hype is the #hashtags, the tweets, and the chitchat at the masjid corner. It’s the stream of articles and Facebook posts. It’s the coverage from CNN and Fox. It’s the burgeoning flare of energy that, in short, gets people energized and ready to take action.

But as crucial as it can be to spark action, hype is also temporary; it needs to be transformed into sustained activism.

Otherwise, it can make us complacent. It veils us from seeing the big picture, of why this problem is important, why you’re involved, what this really means to future of your community. In all its electric fervor, it can let us forget the real, core reason as to why the movement began in the first place unless those efforts are continued.

The Catalyzer

We all need time to heal. We need to mourn and vent and reflect and internalize. But we also need to do.

This is perhaps the most significant amount of positive coverage the Muslim community has ever received in America since the birth of this nation. We have to use this excitement as a catalyzer: now is the time to do.

I plead with you: don’t settle back into your chair and feel good about yourself for a post you made. Don’t feel like you’ve done enough of your due diligence after attending a vigil. Because we can’t be satisfied with the way things are. Vilfredo Pareto, a famous sociologist, once theorized that 80% of all our social output will always come from 20% of the population. I plead with you: be that 20%. The world pushes this idea that those who follow Islam are not civilized, they’re violent and uncultured. Who is going to prove them otherwise?

Above all else, Deah, Yusor, and Razan stood for action. We’ve come to learn that from their campaigns to provide dental care to homeless Americans, their contributions to organizations like Global Deaf Muslim and Habitat for Humanity. They weren’t sitting idle. They were never satisfied with the status quo. And neither should we.

Don’t let the fervor consume you to the point that you find yourself talking and thinking more than you’re doing. Because people don’t want to hear about Islam. They don’t want to read about it.

They want to see it.

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