See Anti-Muslim Attacks, Say Something
by Rev. Paul Brandeis Raushenbush
In the last few days, my hometown of New York City has been the location of two incidents that involved white men attacking Muslim women wearing hijab.
One case involved a decorated off-duty New York City police officer who had received a medal for heroically saving an elderly man and a baby from a burning building in 2014. Officer Elsokary had dropped off her son to park the car and came back to find a man pushing her son, and who said to the native New Yorker: “ISIS (expletive), I will cut your throat, go back to your country!”
The second occurred on a subway platform as three drunken men repeatedly screamed “Donald Trump” at Yasmin Seweid, an 18-year-old college student and yelled anti-Islam insults at the Egyptian American,who was born in Brooklyn, and tried to forcibly remove her hijab while saying, “Look at the f—ing terrorist.” (Note: This account has been proven to be false and the woman has admitted to fabricating the incident. This is very unfortunate as it gives way to claims that the rising tide of hate crimes is overstated. Yet the incidents of verified hate crimes are real as are the anti-Muslim rhetoric that incites them. For further proof look no further than former U.S. representative Alan West.)
These are not isolated incidents. New York City police report that from Nov. 8 through Nov. 27, there have been 34 reported bias crimes, compared to 13 in the same period in 2015. Across the country, almost 900 hate crimes were reported in the first ten days following the election and the numbers is sure to have climbed since then.
What makes many of these stories even more disturbing is that there are often other people around who do nothing to help. It is sickening and their inaction makes them as guilty as perpetrators.
Anyone who lives in New York City knows the anti-terror tagline: “See Something. Say Something.” Well, these attacks are intended to terrorize their victims and I say to all of us — when we see them, we need to say something.
These men were using intimidation to force Muslim women to conform to their idea of what a “great” America looks like. Those of us who know that America is great because of the freedom to practice our own religion and to fully express who we are in the world must find the best way to work against these anti-American attacks and counter-act against the hate.
Now, my first instinct as a big white guy is to fight these bozos. But my colleague, Esther Meroño Baro, reminded me that that is dangerous advice for most. Better advice on how to confront these kinds of situations without escalating them more is illustrated by the freelance artist and illustrator Maeril. (See her work below)
If we see someone attacking or telling a Muslim or a Jew, or a Sikh or anyone else that they have to change the way they look or pray to live in America, then we say something.
If we see someone bashing a member of the LGBT community for being who they are, then we say something.
If we see someone demeaning or assaulting a woman for any reason, then we say something.
If we see someone abusing an immigrant for not speaking English or attempting to separate them from their family here in America, then we say something.
We are in a time when hate is rising and the very diversity that America was meant to provide a home for is under attack.
Just as in the fight against the kind of terrorism that uses bombs, the terrorizing of Americans by their fellow Americans will only be stopped if all of us work together.
I urge all educators, houses of worship, the YMCA, and in the Boys and Girls Clubs to take this moment seriously and help train for this kind of courageous actions using the comic below. Last year, I visited the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center and they talk about not standing-by but standing-up – and, unfortunately, that need has become even more pressing in 2016 America.
Saying something in light of these attacks is scary, but we must gird ourselves to be brave. We must have one another’s back no matter what race, religion or creed. It will take all of us to stem this hateful tide. The time for complacency is over. When we see something, say something.