What to do if confronted with bigotry, harassment, or a hate crime:
- If there is physical danger, your first priority is to stay safe. That should always be your first priority. If it means calling for help, or moving away from the scene, do that.
- Collect information about the perpetrator and the incident (e.g. car license number, personal description, time/location, etc.)
- If there are witnesses, ask for their contact numbers.
- If it is safe to do so, take video footage.
- If the incident is threatening, contact police immediately.
- Whether the incident is threatening or not, ALWAYS contact CAIR-Chicago. I cannot tell you how many times I learn about incidents from Facebook, or 3 years later or whatever. Even though we go blue in the face telling people to report it directly to us as soon as they can.
What to do if contacted by law enforcement / FBI
Ask if you are under investigation. If yes, ask for a warrant. If not, which is usually the case, then ask for the agent’s card and tell him my lawyer will contact you to schedule a meeting for the agent to ask his questions, then call us. Always insist on that.
- Ensure all security cameras are working.
- Ensure doors are locked when no staff is around. (during off hours)
- Have a volunteer available during prayer times to monitor the door and hallway.
- During Jumu’ah and other crowded times, have armed security on the premises, and have trained volunteers monitor the parking lots for safety, and for suspicious persons or behaviors.
- Report any hate mail or harassment or threats or acts of vandalism to CAIR-Chicago.
Message to the Community
- Have no fear; fear Allah only; our fate is ultimately in His hands now as last year and every other year. But practice caution and vigilance. Sisters particularly who wear the Hijab should not walk alone in quiet/empty areas or at night.
- Hate crimes are on the rise and Trump’s new team poses a real civil rights threat. But do not make the mistake of believing that Trump’s America IS America. It is still a minority in America. 260 million Americans did not vote for him. Many Americans of all backgrounds are standing with Muslims. But be careful not to go to the other extreme of dismissing the challenge. In other words, neither look at Trump’s America and panic and lose hope, nor look at the many Americans standing by our side and let your guard down. This will be a challenging time for us, and it will require a fight from our organizations and allies, but one that we will win without a doubt insha Allah if we unite, stay focused and work hard.
- Be active in the larger community. Run for office (big or small or very small). Vote. Volunteer. Engage your school’s PTA and other programs, your local library, your local Park District, and with your neighbors. Do so on the Sunnah of Muhammad (pbuh): care, compassion, and dignity. It is not just our leaders who are ambassadors of Islam in this country, but every Muslim.
- Encourage your children to excel in school, to volunteer, and to read in their free time. Building an informed, engaged next generation is our long term insurance.
- Stay connected to your Mosque and our civic organizations, and keep your kids connected.
- Support our civil rights organizations. We need to invest in our civil rights defense. Buzzfeed, Huffington Post urged even non-Muslim Americans to make CAIR one of the organizations they support as a priority, and former attorney general Eric Holder advised minority communities to invest in their civil rights organizations to prepare for the fight ahead with the next attorney general. You can support directly through website.
- Muslims are not the only community that faces challenges: African-American and Latino and Immigrant communities are making similar preparations.
- We are not alone; we are building strong new alliances with the other communities so we fight together.
- Do not believe everything you read, check sources. Do not share and forward unless you have firsthand assurance, or have confidence in the source.
- We will always keep you informed as things happen: As policies or laws or executive orders that affect us roll out, our sister organizations like CAIR-Chicago will work with our mosque to inform you of how it affects us, and how we can best deal with each development.
Lastly, main message:
This is YOUR country. You belong here. You are not someone’s guest, nor temporary worker. You have as much right here as anyone. You get to define America as much as anyone. In fact, we believe that we have values and assets that make this country great – like our ‘social justice for all’ agenda – and we will not apologize for that. We will stand up to ANYONE who scapegoats, demonizes, or harasses our community or any of our fellow Americans and human beings, based on their race, national origin, faith, or orientation.
By Ahmed Rehab, CAIR-Chicago