Arabs who? Muslims who? They are born and raised here? Can they even call themselves Americans? You may have asked questions like this and been surprised to learn about Arab and Muslim American communities across the nation. Although Muslim and Arab are often used synonymously, the terms are distinct. The first identity is religious and the second is ethnic. The media — what is supposed to be our most trusted source of information — regularly portrays these communities as one and the same. However, the truth is far from that. American Muslims are racially and ethnically diverse and can be Black, white, Asian, Hispanic, Arab and any other race represented on this planet. Also, Arab Americans are religiously diverse, and a great number are Christians.
On top of not understanding who Arab and Muslim Americans are, the normalized hate and discrimination against these communities has reached new heights, becoming consistently more aggressive and blatant. Three Muslim American college students were shot dead in Chapel Hill, N.C.; a Muslim family was physically assaulted while grocery shopping in Dearborn; and a mosque in Houston was the target of arson — to list just a few instances of hate and violence in recent weeks.
We, as the University community, must actively engage in constructive conversations that will produce tangible results and challenge the hostility toward Arab and Muslim Americans. The campaign to TAKE ON HATE is a national movement that strives to address our country’s growing misconceptions and discrimination toward Arab and Muslim American communities. The campaign focuses its efforts on building the capacity of these communities, correcting cultural misconceptions through public education and working with policy makers to promote change.
TAKE ON HATE is holding a community conversation right here on the University’s campus. The aim of the conversation is to build greater understanding of and discover solutions for the current situation these communities face. Together, we can create solutions to challenge the status quo within our communities and build bridges across diverse communities. The conversation will include a breakout session in which participants can brainstorm among small groups of their peers, before sharing with the larger group.
Your input will be crucial in influencing TAKE ON HATE’s national initiatives. This is your chance to connect, learn and share on the measures we, as a connected society, can take to end the hate. Join us from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on April 2 at the Michigan League in the Michigan Room. See you all there!
Rihan Issa is a graduate student in the School of Social Work.