I felt my blood boiling inside as I began to get angry, then suddenly, I remembered him. I remembered how he was tolerant to the rudest and most harmful behavior from others. I remembered how he was bleeding from the rocks his enemies threw at him, and instead of being angry, instead of cursing, and instead of throwing back rocks, he prayed good for them. I remembered him, Mohammed (peace be upon him) and suddenly, I felt myself cooling down.
No one said being a Muslim in America was going to be easy, but no one also said we have to make it more difficult than it already is. When I say more difficult I mean Muslims don’t need to add fuel to the fire. When Pastor Jones screams out to the spotlight to burn the Holy Quran, Muslims don’t need to get fierce, scream, or protest angrily. We don’t need to burn his book or threaten his life. We don’t need to give him the attention he asked for, or show the media what he wants them to think. We need to do the opposite: stay calm, patient, and keep our character the way Islam really teaches us. We need to always remember the character of our teacher, guide, and best example, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). That is the answer to diminishing Islamophobia. It’s not the actual image others try giving us, but our reaction to their words and actions.
Many stories of the past teach and remind us of the Prophet’s dealings with non-Muslims. Whether Muslim or not, he upheld his honesty, kindness, and even hospitality. So who are we, Muslims of this century, to go around thinking differently? Islam is a way of life, and if we don’t start living it, then we’re slowly letting our souls and religion fade.
Unfortunately we don’t have a loud enough Muslim voice in this country, and if we do, then it is one representing a bad image. Islam doesn’t accept beauty pageants, and Islam isn’t culture. Islam doesn’t force girls to marry young. Islam doesn’t oppress women. Islam isn’t about violence. The image of Islam is totally wrecked in this country, but we can change this fact. We might not be able to control the media and its propaganda, but when we walk outside and wear a hijab, then everything we do says “I am Muslim”. Having patience or being hasty, either path we choose will remain in the memories of others. I don’t forget people who get angry and impatient when I’m in line to grab coffee or at a checkout line. I don’t forget those who raise their voices at the cashier for being slow, or rude. I don’t forget, and I know for a fact others don’t either. That’s exactly why I always remind myself of the most influential example for us all, Mohammed (pbuh). It helps me to get back on track, remember my purpose, and preserve my character.
Last March, Rehab El- Buri, a Muslim broadcast journalist who worked with ABC news, passed away from cancer. To me, she is an exceptional example. She had amazing character when she dealt with others, and it stayed behind as her legend. She remains in the memories of many, including American co-workers. Her connection with Americans and the good image of Islam that she left behind motivated me, and I realized I could do similar work. My community, and every community in America, needs an educated Muslim to help them get their voices heard. Broadcast Journalism means frequent traveling, and that means connecting with other people, both Muslim and non-Muslim. That means my action, whether smiling at someone who gives me a dirty look, being patient in a long line, or holding the door for a stranger, can be da’wah. It can be the way I represent Islam to others, and it’s my responsibility to make it memorable.
Our prophet (pbuh) left behind a guide, filled with answers and rulings, and character is a major issue. We really need to rethink and reflect on the way we act in public, whether at a rest area while traveling in another state or sitting in the front row of our University course. Whether we realize it or not, every movement, every action, every word spoken may be the one understanding a non-Muslim receives about Islam, and it’s in our hands to make it good. Upholding the best Muslim character, in public and secret, is necessary for all of us. This is what Islam teaches, and this is what Muhammad preaches. Now all we need to do is follow.