According to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the number of anti-Muslim attacks in the United States has sharply risen. With the rise of hate crimes and Islamophobia a desire for change and advocacy has increased; however, while many wish to help in uncomfortable situations, they are unsure what to do.
The city of Boston has launched a poster campaign to fight Islamophobia by encouraging bystanders to intervene, in a non-confrontational way, when they witness anti-Muslim harassment.
50 posters have been placed around the city with advice on what to do if you see Islamophobic behavior.
The campaign follows a racist incident in the city, where a man shouted anti-Muslim slurs at an old woman wearing a headscarf while traveling in a train and accused her of having a bomb. The posters, to be displayed at bus stops and other public spaces, recommend sitting by a victim of harassment and spreading to them about a neutral subject while ignoring the harasser.
The original version of these posters was designed for a Feminist Group based in the Middle East by Marie-Shirine Yener, who goes by the alias Maerill. The Paris-based illustrator’s step-by-step guide first appeared on Tumblr in September, as a response to the “wave of Islamophobic hatred” in France.
She encouraged her followers to keep conversation with those targeted about “anything: a movie you liked, the weather … Keep eye contact with them, and don’t acknowledge the attacker’s presence: the absence of response from you two will push them to leave the area shortly,” she wrote on Tumblr. She also urged followers to share the how-to guide saying, “it could push a lot of people to overcome bystander syndrome.”
The cartoon quickly went viral with more than 200,000 responses. Maerill said the responses she had received since the guide went global left her confident in her technique’s capability.
“As the creator of this guide, it is very exciting to know that the public is going to discover it in a more official, accessible way,” she said.
According to the Associated Press, “the technique is called ‘non-complementary behavior,’ and is intended to disempower an aggressive person by countering their expectations.”
After garnering the attention of four San Franciscans, who were seeking to make the city’s Bay Area Rapid Transit (Bart) system more inclusive, 40 posters of the guide were displayed in Bart advertising spaces as well.
The theme of the campaign is to encourage people from all over to converse with Muslim citizens and immigrants in America, especially when they are being targeted for their faith.
The ‘How-to’ guides for bystander intervention are a progressive step to a more peaceful environment.
“These posters are one tool we have to send the message that all are welcome in Boston,” Mayor Marty Walsh told the Associated Press. “Education is key to fighting intolerance, and these posters share a simple strategy for engaging with those around you.”
While most comments have been positive in regards to the campaign, many disagree with some stating it brings unnecessary to potential targets as well as others generating hate speech and comments stating the posters do not belong in public spaces.