When you hear about protests or rallies, you don’t instantly think of a bunch of angry people on motorcycles, carrying guns in front of a religious institution. Well, that actually happened in Arizona this past weekend. Of course, the media failed us again by using labels that diminished the seriousness of how unacceptable, wrong, and blatantly racist the whole event was. Many of the participants even wore white privilege messages on their clothing. It was disgusting.
But a new generation of activist didn’t run away or get scared, but stood up using one of the most powerful ways today that we can combat hatred and misinformation– social media.
Imraan Siddiqi led the movement to combat hate on the ground in Arizona. More Christians showed up to stand in solidarity with their Arizona Muslim neighbors than protesters. Deepa Iyer, Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, Dawud Walid, Linda Sarsour, and countless others met up on Twitter using the hashtag #NotMyAmerica, and it became the leading trend online.
Yes, the racist trolls attacked some of them online, but that didn’t stop them. These individuals did the most American duty possible, defending our country’s values. They took on the fight to uphold the freedom of religion against intimidation. It was also truly inspiring to watch non-Muslims retweet and support our cause to Take on Hate. It was powerful to see love, truth, and even humor being used against messages of violence and hatred.
It was phenomenal to be engaged in this peaceful counter protest online. I know many may not have a social media account, but it was something to witness and so inspirational to be part of. The following tweets were inspirational and heartwarming (and funny!):
Drew Philp tweeted “I know my voice is small, but Muslims are always welcome in my community. #NotMyAmerica”.
Amardeep Singh said “Media throws out a narrative that we’re at each other’s throat. In fact, we have each other’s back. One love. #NotMyAmerica #Solidarity”
“In the last 24 hrs we’ve received love from: Evangelicals, Jews, Atheists, The Nation of Islam, Sikhs – supporting Muslims. #NotMyAmerica” tweeted Imraan Siddiqi.
Not to be outdone, the Sikh Coalition tweeted “American Muslims are our neighbors, our classmates, our colleagues. Intimidating fellow Americans because of their faith is #NotMyAmerica.”
“Christians, Jews, atheists.. all decent Americans should stand up against the biker bullies descending on the Phoenix mosque #notmyamerica” said Paul B. Raushenbush.
Jeffry R. Halverson tweeted “In my USA families are free to go to prayer w/out being harrassed by gun-toting buffoons wearing obscenities on their chests #NotMyAmerica”
The point is that silence is never an option when it comes to facing hate, intimidation, lies, and bigotry. We all need to be more courageous. We need to fight back with some flavor of the true America (at least the one I dream for my children) that is full of love and respect. Plus it is so much more fun to spread love and peace.
Editor’s note: Rashida Tlaib is the child of Palestinian immigrants. She lives in Detroit. Tlaib made history in 2008 becoming the first female Muslim woman elected to the Michigan House of Representatives and only second in the country. Tlaib currently works at the Sugar Law Center for Economic & Social Justice on the community benefits movement in Michigan. Her views are her own.