Salam for Helplessness

Palm tree during Cairo sunset

“Are you coming to the US this summer?” people have been asking for months.

“If they let me in, inshallah,” I have been responding. Long before this week happened.

I know. You’re a good person. You care. You’re feeling enraged. And helpless. The rage may rise and fall, but the helplessness is a constant struggle. I know that feeling. Not every person can march and strike and stand in solidarity and advocate day in and day out. So here are some ways to get through this by focusing on what you can do day in, day out.

Reach Out to a Muslim Friend. A lot of my US friends are reaching out to me in solidarity and asking what they can do. I haven’t lived in the US since 2008…so I don’t have a full perspective. Also, my country isn’t (yet, anyway) on any blacklists, so Egyptian friends aren’t (yet) standing in airports separated from their families (such unnecessary cruelty, so dramatically executed). If you have Muslim friends in America ask them how you can help. If you don’t have any Muslim friends, it may be time to start deepening relationships with some you know.

Little Things for the Short Term. When I did live in America, these small gestures helped me feel safe

  1. People on the street just saying “assalamu alaikum”

  2. Strangers just chatting to me in a friendly way in public places, like on the bus

  3. Colleagues at work suggesting we get coffee or lunch

  4. Strangers just prolonging casual conversations with me to be friendly

Big Goals for the Long Term. If you’re reading this, chances are, you teach or have some influence on young people in some way. Change the way you teach, says Sean Michael Morris. Promoting intercultural competence can go a long way. Some ideas:

  1. Find ways to nurture tolerance and acceptance and even empathy for the “other” in your teaching. Advocate for social justice. Even if it doesn’t seem to fit your course subject matter. We can brainstorm this.

  2. Find ways to expose your students to “other” people whether directly or through their writing or videos or other material.

  3. Direct interaction, in my opinion, works best, but I know isn’t always possible in every context. Check out cultural dialogue exchange ideas like Soliya.

  4. Influence people around you. Talk to neighbors and family members who may not realize the extent of the impact of this.

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but I couldn’t stand helpless. And neither should you. Salam. Please use the comments to share more ideas for overcoming feeling helpless in reaction to this week’s news!

[Flickr photo Palm tree during Cairo Sunset by ma_bali (me). CC-BY-NC-SA.]

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