Fear guides many of our decisions. When we don’t handle our fear, it can cripple us. This kind of fear entraps us, we are not able to move in any direction. In these situations, the individual with the fear is hurt by their fear. Unfortunately, sometimes being crippled by fear hurts who or what the fear is directed at more than the person with the fear. One common instance of this today is Islamophobia.
“Islamophobia magnifies all other fears.” -Ahmad
Phobias aren’t rational. Some are widely considered to be understandable, such as claustrophobia. Rationally, we know walls can’t close in around us, but it’s understandable to have that trapped feeling in small spaces. Before I took this trip, I would have said Islamophobia is neither a rational nor understandable fear. Meeting and talking with some Muslims here has made me think about it a bit differently.
Like claustrophobia and other phobias, Islamophobia is not rational. But also like claustrophobia, it might be understandable. Understandable does not mean okay. I am in no way condoning or making excuses for Islamophobic behavior. After several conversations, I’m starting to view Islamophobia as a fear of the unknown.
“Whenever I read that there’s been a bomb or a gunshot I pray all night that it wasn’t a refugee who did it.” -Mohanad
We all experience fear of unknowns sometimes. In my experience, the best way to handle those fears is to take a deep breath and go for it. You can’t know your feelings about something without trying it. Islamophobia, on the other hand, is crippling by nature. Considering refugee resettlement in Germany, the vast majority of those opposing incoming refugees live where few refugees have settled. During the debate over legalizing same-sex marriage in the U.S., an experiment was done with participants who were opposed to legalization. All participants were introduced to someone who identified on the LGBTQ+ spectrum; afterwards, the vast majority of those opposing said they would not have a problem with same-sex marriage.
Talking with some Syrian Muslims, I’ve heard a little about how they experience Islamophobia on a daily basis. I hope that by hearing and reading some of what they had to say, we can all become more open.
“I was the most qualified for the job, I had the most experience and could speak the most languages. She told me she couldn’t give it to me because of hijab. She turned to [my husband], ‘why you force Dima to wear this?’. She was a volunteer with refugees and she didn’t know.” -Dima
This post probably won’t change extreme Islamophobes minds. I do hope that for those who are anxious and unsure what refugee resettlement in the U.S. could mean, this knowledge can become a part of the American perspective on refugees.
“The problem is not in the text, it’s in the people.” -Mohanad