Over the last few months, my family – like many others in Canada and the US – seriously considered our safety and well-being in a part of the world that is often heralded as the bastion of freedom. The vitriolic lead-up to a Trump presidency hinted at the negative atmosphere that would arrive in 2017. But the true impact of the revealing of society’s basest components would not become apparent until much later.
The distress and anxiety as my aunt expressed her fears as a hijab-wearing woman in this ‘new’ America and the worry as I responded to a family friend’s text after the Quebec Mosque Shootings made me think about faith. Throughout our lives, we are surrounded by simple lessons of faith with tremendous power…a power that is drawn from their universality across the various situations in life.
Be nice. Be kind. Repeated so many times, it is a reminder to always strive to be a good person. It is easy on most days…to smile or to bite back a sharp retort. But the true test is when we are challenged with adversity. We now see mosques in the US being burned to the ground with alarming regularity and emboldened fringe groups harassing worshippers outside a Toronto mosque. This is when it is the hardest to stop ourselves from responding with anger. The strength shown in choosing to instead reach out through coffee meet-and-greets and open mosque projects brought to mind a verse from the Holy Quran:
“and do not let the hatred of a people prevent you from being just” [5:8].
If people can still be kind and demonstrate love when faced with hate, then surely they have succeeded.
The response to the increased hate is astounding; the solidarity across communities has done so much in building bridges and creating safe spaces. Simultaneously, many are actively trying to stop the hateful messages long before they hurt anyone. But their work can be frustrating, like the lawyers who worked pro bono for hours against the Muslim Ban…only to have their success met by a newly-drafted bill, one harder to fight in court. The Prophet Muhammad said,
“Whoever of you sees an evil, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart.”
It is a lesson that I pray gives hope to all those fighting against the hate. No action has too small of an impact; it is the quick smile on the bus that will flicker in the mind of someone on the verge of collapse after yet another tirade of insults hurled at her by a passer-by.
The past few months have reminded me that, good or bad, the one constant is our faith. Yes, a sacred place of prayer was desecrated by a gun-toting man, but we clearly see that prayer is not confined to any one space alone. The Holy Quran says,
“Without doubt, it is with the remembrance of Allah (God) that the hearts are comforted” [13:28].
The images protesters prostrating in prayer at JFK airport. Or the tears in the eyes of Prime Minister Trudeau as he listened to the prayers at the funerals for the Quebec Shooting victims. These are the testaments that even when surrounded by a hurricane of hate, taking a moment to pray and connect with the Lord is a cherished moment in the eye of the storm. He is the Provider of Comfort at all times, through the joyous moments and those times of difficulty and fear.
Maryam Baksh is a graduate at University of British Columbia. She is a member of the Muslim community in Vancouver.