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Michigan teacher: Before race or religion, come together on a human level

Muslims hold a vigil in Royal Oak in response to attacks in Libya
Mercedes Mejia
/
Michigan Radio

In the U.S., random attacks against Muslims – or people the attackers think look like Muslims – are on the rise. Michigan is not exempt.

In her recent article for The Islamic Monthly, Michigan public school teacher Zeinab Chami wonders why, 14 years after the most significant incident of violence in the name of Islam ever, we are now seeing more vitriolic comments against Islam – not fewer.

The article is called The Prayer of the American Muslim. That prayer: “Please, God, don’t let them be Muslim.”

“Whenever an attack happens, the first thing that pops into our minds is please, God, don’t let them be Muslim,” Chami says. “I am not immune to that, and every Muslim that I’ve spoken to agrees with that.”

In an environment filled with increasingly hateful rhetoric aimed at followers of Islam, Chami tells us the Muslim community has been put on the defensive.

“We’re operating from a place of fear, a place of frustration, and it’s really not how we should be operating. We should be allowed to mourn just like everyone else when other people are murdered on a mass level,” she says.

Chami adds that having to constantly defend something as personal as one’s faith is “not pleasant.”

She tells us her article started out as “this grand defense of Muslims,” but she felt that wasn’t really getting to the core of the problem.

"It's so unfortunate to me we're helping them win."

“I just kind of deleted all of that,” she says, “and, you know, I spoke from the heart, and I spoke about just mourning from a human level. Existing from a human level. We’re all human beings; not even Americans or Canadians or Syrians, we’re just human beings. And forcing us on the defense sort of strips us of that right to live as human beings, and that’s a really, really painful place to exist from, and I think that’s doing damage to our community.”

In spite of all the hate loudly being flung at Muslims, Chami doesn’t think that voice is representative of America’s true attitude.

“I refuse to believe most Americans feel that way. I think most Americans are pretty balanced people, and I think that the vocal minority has kind of overtaken the conversation,” Chami says.

She is, however, troubled by that vocal minority because, she explains, they’re playing right into the Islamic State’s hands.

"I can't emphasize it enough. That human connection is what's really most important here."

“When we dehumanize other people and fear them for no reason, we’re just as bad as the attackers are in so many ways. We’re letting them win. You know, Daesh … they say that they want to make it impossible for Muslims to exist in the West. They want to take away this gray area, and it’s working. It’s so unfortunate to me we’re helping them win,” she says.

Chami tells us she’s heard people float the idea that all of the Muslim community’s problems would be solved if only they would stop seeing the Quran as a sacred text, stop living for the afterlife, “just throwing out everything that makes Islam, Islam, and essentially secularizing it.” She says that’s not the solution.

 “A quarter of humanity follows Islam. You’re not going to get almost two billion people to throw their faith aside,” Chami says. “The real solution is looking at each other as human beings. I mean, I can’t emphasize it enough. That human connection is what’s really most important here.”

- Ryan Grimes, Stateside

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