Qasim Rashid believes that by speaking out, Ms. Eden has not only empowered more non-Muslims to speak up against Islamophobia, she has also elevated the voices of Muslims.
I remember standing at the DMV with my wife, who wears hijab, as the state employee berated her without remorse for wearing a hijab. I remember standing at the TSA security line at LAX while incompetent security singled out my wife and infant son to check his diaper for explosives–forcing her to stand up straight holding him for over twenty minutes. I remember leaving the hospital last summer with my wife and our second son minding our own business, and getting angrily sneered at by a woman with racist bumper stickers.
What I don’t remember is getting angry that a white person, or any person for that matter, swooped in to save the day. Because that never happened. No one swooped in. No one stepped in. No one even stopped. While the moral support would have been welcomed, the world simply continued on without missing a beat. Meanwhile, my wife, children, and I were singled out time and time again because of our faith and skin color.
So I was comforted to see the viral video of Stacey Eden, an Australian woman, standing up for a Muslim couple against an Islamophobic bigot who was berating them. That comfort quickly turned to confusion, however, as I read the obscure meandering complaint published in the Independent concluding Ms. Eden’s “‘help’ does more harm than good.”
Such a claim is as facetious as it is offensive. The idea that a person choosing to combat bigotry is anything but helpful undermines the very foundation of a society dedicated to pluralism.
The reality is that Stacey Eden did what I only hope more people would have the courage to do–stand up against intolerance. It is not only reckless, but also naive and ignorant to accuse Ms. Eden of any sort of complex. Such a position leaves non-Muslims with two equally obscure and regressive choices: stay silent and face accusations of insensitivity, or speak out and face accusations of intrusion.
In my opinion, people of color should welcome white allies to speak out in the face of bigotry, and to do so with confidence. By speaking out Ms. Eden has not only empowered more non-Muslims to speak up for pluralism against Islamophobia, but she has also elevated the voices of Muslims–like the two Muslims in the video.
Ms. Eden’s video shows beautifully how Islam commands Muslims to respond when ridiculed and abused. Far from the violent responses to Charlie Hebdo and Danish cartoons, the Quran 25:64 commands Muslims to respond to insults with grace by saying peace and carrying on with dignity. In peace, the Australian Muslim couple exemplified Prophet Muhammad’s compassionate behavior and the Quran’s noble commandment. And the recording of Ms. Eden offers it for the whole world to see.
And this example of what Islam actually teaches is critical, especially when negative stereotypes continue to dominate news headlines.
In America, for example, some 180 million Americans have never once met a Muslim, and anti-Muslim sentiment doesn’t appear to be going away any time soon. Such unfounded “white savior” accusations confirm in the minds of those unfamiliar with Muslims that they should simply have nothing to do with Muslim-Americans for any reason. After all, why risk it? Apparently, not only are Muslims strange and foreign, but also, they ridicule you if you try to speak up and defend their equal rights and dignity.
This attitude is destructive to a progressive and pluralistic society. Racism is already epidemic and allies are scarce. Rather than demonize those who actively speak up to condemn bigotry, we should celebrate their contributions if for no other reason than they are showing a passionate and compassionate desire to want to make this world a better place. This isn’t to say that people of color inherently “need” white people to “stand up for them.” On the contrary, we want to collaborate on major public projects on which we are already speaking up. No one wants to be deliberately ignored. Deliberate ignorance, however, is a far cry from someone having the courage to speak up in the heat of the moment, and with genuine compassion as their motivation.
I know it is only a matter of time before it happens again–when my family or I will be singled out in public and berated for our faith or skin color. We don’t consider ourselves weak, not by a long shot. But we also know humanity is stronger when we stand united against bigotry. So if you happen to see someone face harassment or abuse, don’t let ignorant accusations of “white savior complex” hinder you from doing what is right–swoop in and save the day.