In this age of terrorism, where does your mind go when you see someone who looks like a Muslim? Have you noticed how your body shifts? Do you find yourself backing away? Are you afraid?
I ask you these questions because I had an AHA moment the other day.
I live in the mountains of Georgia in a small tourist community that is filled with cabin rentals. People from the city often make their way here for getaway weekends.
On our road alone, there are a half-dozen rental properties. We often see vacationers with their kids hiking or playing up and down our one-lane dirt road, taking in the breathtaking scenery. So, it was no surprise to see a man and a boy playing outside the other day. As I drove by them, I noticed their dark skin, Middle Eastern looks, and the man’s heavy beard. And I immediately thought about Muslim families.
Thankfully, THANKFULLY, my thoughts took me to my heart instead of my head.
With the media deluge of terrorist attacks by extremists, that is a feat unto itself.
A day never goes by where I don’t see hate mongering towards ALL Muslims on the Internet, in the media or even in conversations with people who I would never have imagined spewing hateful words. It’s like we’re all being brainwashed to mistrust and judge anyone who even remotely looks like a Muslim terrorist.
Hate is everywhere because people are in fear. And because that fear is triggering our primal need to survive, there is a tendency to profile anyone who is Muslim or looks like one, assuming they must be aligned with terrorists.
I get how the mind works. We all want to feel safe. So it is our natural instinct to want to protect ourselves, and our loved ones. Thus, we tend to shun anything or anyone that remotely resembles something that could hurt us.
But can you imagine how Muslim families must feel?
That’s where my mind went when I drove by the man and child that day. My heart burst open. I have no idea if the two of them were actually Muslim or not. I don’t even know if they were related. But seeing them triggered something inside of me where I could literally feel the pain of Muslim families due to the judgment and alienation being thrown at them in our culture and abroad.
Do you remember what it was like to be a child who was shunned or left out? Did you ever feel judged for being who you are? Do you hold onto any of that pain? Can you imagine what a Muslim child in our country must feel right now in school or on the local playground? Can you feel in your heart how awful it must be to feel ostracized simply for having a different faith?
I remember the “mean girls” in school. I can tell you that every time one of them said something hateful, it shut my heart down. I began believing that something was wrong with me. I didn’t know back then that it was their pain that caused them to lash out at me. Most kids don’t know this. Instead, they take on beliefs, just like I did, that something is wrong with them, too. The idea that even one Muslim child will feel shut out because of his/her religious beliefs is why I feel called to speak out and write this article.
Are you a parent? If you are, you know what it’s like to want desperately for your kids to feel loved and accepted. Can you imagine how Muslim parents must feel to have people not only judge them, but to see the hate that is being inflicted on their kids?
As I said, I am so thankful I moved into my heart instead of my head when I drove by the man and little boy. I want to encourage you to do the same. If you’re not already seeing with the eyes of compassion, I ask you to consider looking at yourself and to make a shift.
If we want the hate to stop, we have to stop hating.
If we want to experience more peace on this planet, we must stop the negative spewing and send love to people’s pain.
I believe that this time in history is calling us all to be agents of change. If you are ready to lead with love, here are some steps to help you get started:
1. Make a decision to no longer participate in the negativity. For instance, if someone writes a post on Facebook that stereotypes Muslims and lumps them with terrorists, delete it from your feed. Don’t allow it to seep into your mind or to fuel others’ negativity.
2. Go into awareness of how you react when you see someone who is Muslim or looks like one. Check in with your thoughts. Are you judging them? Are you linking them immediately to terrorists?
3. Imagine yourself in their shoes. What would that feel like to you? Can you imagine how the kids must feel? The parents? Feel their pain and allow your heart to open to kindness and compassion.
4. Try this energetic tool: When you see someone whom you think might be a Muslim, chances are others will, too. So whether they are Muslim or not, they are most likely being judged and alienated. Visualize a pink blanket and imagine wrapping it around them with love.
5. Spread this message of love. Take it to the next level. When you hear someone spewing hate or judgment towards all Muslims, speak out loud. Invite them into this loving conversation. Ask them to let go of their stereotypes and open their hearts to see what Muslim families must be going through.
I encourage you to be a leader of love. We need everyone to stop the hate mongering. These five steps are great ones to practice for not only Muslims, but for whomever you might judge. Whether you find yourself spewing hate and negativity towards people due to their race, religion or culture, or for simply being different, you have the power to create change and bring love to the situation when you look at yourself first and then speak up.