Diversity Initiatives Are Failing the U.S. Muslim Community

Interesting new term for me, “crisis diversity:”

Over the past decade, the Muslim community has become included in diversity initiatives in the United States. Hollywood is finally producing shows that feature Muslim characters, such as Hulu’s Ramy, Netflix’s Mo, and Disney+’s Ms. Marvel. Universities are adjusting dining hall hours to accommodate Muslim students who fast during Ramadan, and they are increasing the number of reflection spaces on campus to facilitate Muslim ritual prayer. Nike launched its Pro Hijab, a headscarf for Muslim women athletes, and Olympic medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad became its model. Muhammad also served as the inspiration for the first Muslim Barbie doll.

These initiatives enhance our sense of belonging as Muslims in the U.S.—but they are not enough to actually challenge Islamophobia.

How did Muslims come to be included in diversity plans in the U.S.? My research shows that this happened in the wake of crises, or moments that made it clear that Islamophobia was a problem. Diversity initiatives born out of crisis can produce important social change, but responding to a momentary flare up as opposed to longstanding structural inequality limits the extent of possible change. Social change requires addressing the root of the problem primarily located in a history of U.S. foreign policies that dehumanize Muslims.

Islamophobia, itself, is far from new. Scholars trace forms of it as far back as the 7th century, with the emergence of Islam as a religion. But the term found new popularity in the late 20th century. Many point to the 1997 report published by the Runnymede Trust in the UK as the first influential use of the word Islamophobia, since it was the first to highlight it as a social problem. But the term did not enter the U.S. lexicon until about a decade after 9/11.

Muslims have long been constructed as threats to U.S. national security, but this intensified after 9/11. Think of the USA PATRIOT Act, Special Registration, U.S.-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the Abu Ghraib prison scandal as prime examples of this.

But in the 2010’s, as the nation grappled with a history of racism and inequality, a new rubric of “diversity, equity, and inclusion” created an opening for Muslims to be seen as a beleaguered minority. Muslims became included in conceptions of diversity and social justice through a series of crises, such as the 2010 “ground zero mosque” controversy, the establishment of the Islamophobia Industry, and Donald Trump’s 2015 announcement to ban Muslims from entering the U.S.

These moments led to widespread recognition that Muslims are demonized and targets of individual hate and repressive state policies. This phenomenon is a prime example of crisis diversity—where a precipitating event leads to the recognition of racism or discrimination and an ensuing flurry of concerted action.

Crisis diversity produces a domino effect of responses: The general public becomes aware of a long-standing problem (Islamophobia); people of that particular identity group (Muslims and experts on Islam) are called upon to urgently educate the public and advise leaders on how to make changes; media conglomerates, corporations, universities, and other organizations respond by issuing statements or embarking on new diversity initiatives. The crisis moment then passes, and little attention is paid to the issue until the next crisis emerges, restarting the cycle.

Crisis diversity is not solely a response to Islamophobia. One need only look at how the police killing of George Floyd in the spring of 2020 led to nationwide protests, reigniting public debate about police brutality and putting anti-Black racism firmly on the agenda of the criminal justice system, as well as universities and a wide array of corporations and industries. That same year, the football team the Washington Redskins was finally renamed the Washington Commanders after decades of refusing to change the name, despite protests from American Indian communities. NASCAR finally banned use of the Confederate flag, and Quaker Oats finally retired its brand based on the Aunt Jemima racial stereotype. At the same time, the number of Black people killed by police has not decreased.

In similar, yet distinct ways, Islamophobia is discovered anew each time an instance of it manages to capture public attention. How much social change is accomplished through these crises-responses is varied and debatable.

For Muslims, crisis gave us Mo and Ms. Marvel. It gave us prayer rooms on college campuses. It gave us Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, the first Muslim women in Congress. These progress markers are an important start; however, the crisis-response approach is limiting. While Hollywood sticks it to Trump by finally including Muslims in roles that have nothing to do with terrorism, it does so without acknowledging how the industry itself has demonized Muslims for over a century.

Perpetrators of hate crimes against Muslims are given life sentences, without addressing how the same criminal justice system subjects Muslims to surveillance, deportation, and detention, that fuel hate crime violence. Racial and religious stereotypes are also used to criminalize Muslim men. Prosecutors used Adnan Syed’s identity as Pakistani and Muslim to argue that his religion and culture influenced him to murder his 18-year-old girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, and be prone to violence. In Sept. 2022, after spending over two decades of a life-in-prison sentence for murder, robbery, kidnapping, and false imprisonment, the charges were dropped, and Syed was released.

Crisis diversity focuses our attention on only the most overt, public, and often seemingly sudden expressions of racism, obscuring its longevity and reach well beyond crisis moments. In doing so, it obscures the enduring causes of Islamophobia, rooted in national security policies that demonize Muslims.

Real change requires understanding and approaching the problem as part of longstanding practices that will not evaporate with quick fixes during momentary crises. It requires a paradigm shift in our understanding of the problem and its magnitude. If leaders in Hollywood, corporations, universities, and the government consistently considered the long history of inequality in the U.S. when devising solutions (rather than responding to a momentary crisis), a more just and inclusive future would be possible.

Alsultany is an Associate Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity at USC’s Dornsife College and the author of Broken: The Failed Promise of Muslim Inclusion

Source: Diversity Initiatives Are Failing the U.S. Muslim Community

Australia: ‘Beyond the pale’: PM rocked by new claims

Difference of interpretation or dog whistle?

Scott Morrison has been hit with fresh claims he sought to exploit anti-Muslim sentiment, with two witnesses to a shadow cabinet meeting in 2010 insisting there was a “blow up” with Malcolm Turnbull over the issue.

The Prime Minister has previously confirmed the discussion in an interview with The Project’s Waleed Aly, but insisted he sought to cool voter concerns over Muslim migration, not exploit it.

However, two people who attended the meeting on December 1, 2010 have told news.com.au they did not believe he raised the issue purely to address voter sentiment.

“Malcolm Turnbull genuinely ripped into him. Said it was ‘beyond the pale’,” a Liberal source said.

Another Liberal shadow cabinet member at the time told news.com.au: “He absolutely did talk about the Muslim migration.”

“He flagged it and I remember Phillip Ruddock was very scathing about it,” they said.

Reports of the meeting first emerged in 2011, with claims Mr Morrison urged the shadow cabinet to capitalise on the electorate’s growing concerns about “Muslim immigration”, “Muslims in Australia” and the “inability” of Muslim migrants to integrate.

Then-opposition leader Tony Abbott was not at the meeting, but deputy leader, Julie Bishop, and the former immigration minister, Philip Ruddock, strongly disagreed with the suggestion, pointing out the Coalition had long supported a non-discriminatory immigration policy.

Liberal sources said at the time Mr Morrison told the shadow cabinet meeting on December 1 at the Ryde Civic Centre that the Coalition should ramp up its questioning of “multiculturalism” amid deep voter concerns.

Three years ago, when the claims surfaced again, Prime Minister Scott Morrison described them as “a disgusting lie”.

Mr Morrison abruptly shut down a press conference when he was asked, “Those that did attend the meeting told the Sydney Morning Herald in 2011, quote, that Scott said, ‘What are we going to do about multiculturalism?’”

“I’m going to stop you there. I’ve already addressed this issue today. It is an ugly and repugnant lie,” Mr Morrison said.

“I reject it absolutely 100 per cent and my record of working with the Muslim community in Sydney in particular speaks volumes for my track record. Any suggestion to the contrary, I find utterly offensive. Thank you.”

But just 24 hours later, he confirmed he had raised concerns over the “anti-Muslim” sentiment of voters during a 2010 shadow cabinet meeting, but insisted it was only to “address them, not exploit them”.

Mr Morrison confirmed the discussions with The Project’s Waleed Aly in March 2019.

It was the first time the PM has admitted the discussions on “anti-Muslim” sentiments occurred, after describing claims he had sought to capitalise on the fears as “an ugly and disgusting lie” just 24 hours earlier.

In the interview, Aly asked: “Who is lying? You say that this never happened. You’ve called it a smear and a lie. Who is lying?”

Mr Morrison then blamed two “unnamed sources” in shadow cabinet – Liberal MPs – for twisting the truth of the meeting into “a lie”.

“What is suggested is that I said that we should exploit – exploit – concerns about Islam in the community to our political advantage,” Mr Morrison said.

“Well, I was the shadow immigration minister at the time. And I was very concerned about these issues and the way people were feeling in the community.”

In 2011, Liberal finance spokesman Andrew Robb confirmed that “Scott did talk about the strong feelings in the general community about Muslim immigration and he said that we as a party had to engage with that sentiment”.

“But I’m sure he meant we should engage in a constructive way,” Mr Robb said.

The story first emerged after Mr Morrison questioned the cost of asylum-seeker funerals in 2011. Mr Morrison later apologised for the “timing” of his comments, saying it was “inappropriate” and “insensitive”.

When Aly asked the Prime Minister about Mr Robb’s on-the-record confirmation that he had discussed anti-Muslim sentiment, Mr Morrison confirmed he had discussed it in the meeting.

“I was concerned that we needed to address them. Which is what I have been doing inside and outside of the Parliament for the last 10 years of my life,’’ he said.

“Yes – to lower them. I was acknowledging that there were these fears in the community and we had to address them, not exploit them.”

“I want to rule a line under this issue. It never happened. I have always been deeply concerned about attitudes towards people of Muslim faith in our community.”

Mr Morrison ended the interview with a plea for voters to respect his sincerity on fostering good relationships with the Muslim community.

“Don’t pre-judge me. I know what my values are,” he said.

Source: ‘Beyond the pale’: PM rocked by new claims

How ‘Multiculturalism’ Became a Bad Word in South Korea

Highlights some of the challenges to previously insular societies:

Inside the dimly lit house, young Muslim men knelt and prayed in silence. Outside, their Korean neighbors gathered with angry signs to protest “a den of terrorists” moving into their neighborhood.

In a densely populated but otherwise quiet district in Daegu, a city in southeastern South Korea, a highly emotional standoff is underway.

Roughly 150 Muslims, mostly students ​at the nearby Kyungpook National University, started building a mosque in a lot next door to their temporary house of worship about a year ago. When their Korean neighbors found out, they were furious.

The mosque would turn the neighborhood of Daehyeon-dong into “​an enclave of Muslims and a ​crime-infested ​slum,” the Korean neighbors wrote on signs and protest banners. It would bring more “noise” and a “food smell​” from an unfamiliar culture, driving out the Korean residents.

The Muslim students and their Korean supporters fought back, arguing that they had the right to live and pray in peace in Daegu, one of the most politically conservative cities in South Korea. “There is a difference between protest and harassment,” said Muaz Razaq, 25, a Ph.D. student in computer science who is from Pakistan. “What they were doing was harassment.”

The fault line between the two communities here has exposed an uncomfortable truth in South Korea. At a time when the country enjoys more global influence than ever — with consumers around the world eager to dance to its music, drive its cars and buy its smartphones — it is also grappling with a fierce wave of anti-immigrant fervor and Islamophobia. While it has successfully exported its culture abroad, it has been slow to welcome other cultures at home.

The mosque dispute has become a flash point, part of a larger phenomenon in which South Koreans have had to confront what it means to live in an increasingly diverse society. Muslims have often borne the brunt of racist misgivings, particularly after the Taliban executed two South Korean missionaries in 2007.

The arrival of 500 Yemeni asylum seekers on the island of Jeju in 2018 triggered South Korea’s first series of organized anti-immigrant protests. The government responded to fears that the asylum seekers were harboring terrorists by banning them from leaving the island.

“Their rules on the hijab alone are enough reason that they should never set foot in our country,” said Lee Hyung-oh, the leader of Refugee Out, a​ nationwide anti-immigration network that opposes the mosque in Daegu.

Many Koreans explain their attitude toward foreigners by citing history: their small nation has survived invasions and occupations for centuries, maintaining its territory, language and ethnic identity. Those who oppose the mosque and immigration more broadly have often warned that an influx of foreigners would threaten South Korea’s “pure blood” and “ethnic homogeneity.”

“We may look exclusionist, but it has made us what we are, consolidating us as a nation to survive war, colonial rule and financial crises and achieve economic development while speaking the same language, thinking the same thoughts,” Mr. Lee said. “I don’t think we could have done this with diversity,” he added. “We are not xenophobic. We just don’t want to mix with others.”

Some say the country does not have much of a choice.

South Korea’s rise as a cultural powerhouse has coincided with a demographic crisis. Years of low birthrates and rising incomes in urban areas have led to shortages of women who want to marry and live in rural towns. Farms and factories have found it difficult to fill low-wage jobs. Universities lack local students.

To help alleviate the challenges, South Korea opened its doors to workers and students from other nations. Some rural men began to marry foreign women, especially from Vietnam. Yet when the government introduced policies to support “multicultural families,” there was a backlash. Suddenly, words like “multiculturalism” and “diversity” became pejorative terms for many South Koreans.

And the antipathy has not been limited to Muslim students in Daegu, a city of more than two million people.

Last year, an anti-China uproar forced a local developer to cancel its plan to build a Chinese cultural center west of Seoul. In Ansan, south of Seoul, all but six of the 450 students in Wongok Elementary School are immigrants’ children because Korean parents have refused to send their children there. In 2020, a Ghanaian entertainer sparked a backlash when he criticized a blackface performance by high school students. He eventually apologized.

“Koreans have deep-rooted xenophobic beliefs that foreigners are inferior,” said Yi Sohoon, a professor of sociology at Kyungpook National University who supports the mosque. “But they value foreigners differently according to their origin. They treat Black people from the United States or Europe differently from Black people from Africa.”

Runaway housing prices, a lack of social mobility and a widening income gap have contributed to the tensions. In a recent Facebook post, Yoon Suk-yeol, a leading conservative candidate in the March 9 presidential election, vowed to stop immigrants from getting “a free ride” with national health care. Lee Jae-myung, his more left-leaning rival, accused Mr. Yoon of fanning “xenophobic right-wing populism.”

The number of foreign residents in South Korea grew to 1.7 million, or 3.3 percent of the total population, in 2020, from 1.4 million in 2017. The government has predicted that the number will grow to 2.3 million by 2040. The overall population fell for the first time on record in 2021, increasing the need for foreign workers and students.

“Human beings are naturally biased, but don’t let the bias lead you to depriving other people of their fundamental human rights,” said Ashraf Akintola, a Ph.D. student in biomedical engineering from Nigeria and one of the Muslim worshipers in Daegu. Mr. Akintola said he felt sad when a Korean protester followed him last year shouting, “Leave our country!” Back in Nigeria, he said, K-pop was so popular that his friends learned to speak Korean.

The Muslim students had prayed at an ordinary house in Daehyeon-dong for seven years. In late 2020, after tearing the house down, they began building a mosque, using a building next door as a temporary house of worship during construction. That’s when Korean residents and activists joined forces to make the neighborhood the center of an anti-immigrant campaign.

In January, the neighbors hung a large black-and-white banner across from the proposed mosque site: “Korean people come first!”

“We are not against their religion,” said Kim Jeong-suk, a 67-year-old Korean resident who opposes the mosque. “We just can’t have a new religious facility in our crowded neighborhood, whether it’s Islamic, Buddhist or Christian.” The neighborhood already has 15 Christian churches, including one roughly 30 yards from where the mosque would be.

Many of the offensive signs were removed after the government’s National Human Rights Commission intervened last October. Construction remains suspended as both sides take their case to court, but human rights lawyers say discrimination against immigrants can also be found in South Korean law.

“It’s one thing that Koreans want to be recognized globally, get rich and successful abroad,” said Hwang Pil-gyu, a human rights attorney who tracks abuses against immigrants. “It’s quite another whether they are willing to embrace foreigners.”

An anti-discrimination bill has stalled in Parliament for years amid opposition from a powerful Christian lobby. Under current policy, undocumented people are not afforded the same rights as those who are in South Korea legally, and foreigners detained under immigration laws are not entitled to habeas corpus.

Last year, disturbing closed-circuit TV footage from a detention center for undocumented immigrants showed a Moroccan man hogtied in solitary confinement. The Justice Ministry admitted to human rights abuses and promised reform.

Still, accepting Muslim refugees has become so unpopular that when the government gave asylum to 390 Afghans last year, it refused to call them refugees. Instead it called them “special contributors,” signaling that the country would only welcome those who contributed to national interests.

“Globalization has a positive connotation among South Koreans,” said Ms. Yi, the professor. “But they need to realize that it involves an exchange of not just money and goods, but culture, religion and people.” Ms. Yi was among the liberal politicians, professors and activists who staged rallies supporting the mosque.

Residents, however, appear to be united in their opposition. More than 175,000 people signed a petition addressed to Moon Jae-in, the president of South Korea, warning that “If we lose Daehyeon-dong, we will lose Daegu.”

“I had never seen people like them before, and I saw no women, only men, swarming in there,” said Park Jeong-suk, a 60-year-old resident who lives next door to the proposed mosque site.

Ms. Park’s neighbor, Namgung Myeon, 59, said he opposed an influx of foreigners as South Korea’s own population declined. “It will unsettle our national foundation,” he said, “enervating our national character and values.”

Source: How ‘Multiculturalism’ Became a Bad Word in South Korea

The Quiet Flight of Muslims From France

Of interest. Haven’t found any comparable data for Canada but will check the 2021 census data when it comes out (which will have religious affiliation data):

France’s wounded psyche is the invisible character in every one of Sabri Louatah’s novels and the hit television series he wrote. He speaks of his “sensual, physical, visceral love” for the French language and of his attachment to his hometown in southeastern France, bathed in its distinctive light. He closely monitors the campaign for the upcoming presidential elections.

But Mr. Louatah does all of that from Philadelphia, the city that he began considering home after the 2015 attacks in France by Islamist extremists, which killed scores of people and deeply traumatized the country. As sentiments hardened against all French Muslims, he no longer felt safe there. One day, he was spat on and called, “Dirty Arab.”

“It’s really the 2015 attacks that made me leave because I understood they were not going to forgive us,” said Mr. Louatah, 38, the grandson of Muslim immigrants from Algeria. “When you live in a big Democratic city on the East Coast, you’re more at peace than in Paris, where you’re deep in the cauldron.”

Ahead of elections in April, President Emmanuel Macron’s top three rivals — who are expected to account for nearly 50 percent of the vote, according to polls — are all running anti-immigrant campaigns that fan fears of a nation facing a civilizational threat by invading non-Europeans. The issue is top of their agenda, even though France’s actual immigration lags behind that of most other European countries.

The problem barely discussed is emigration. For years, France has lost highly educated professionals seeking greater dynamism and opportunity elsewhere. But among them, according to academic researchers, is a growing number of French Muslims who say that discrimination was a strong push factor and that they felt compelled to leave by a glass ceiling of prejudice, nagging questions about their security and a feeling of not belonging.

The outflow has gone unremarked upon by politicians and the news media even as researchers say it shows France’s failure to provide a path for advancement for even the most successful of its largest minority group, a “brain drain” of those who could have served as models of integration.

“These people end up contributing to the economy of Canada or Britain,” said Olivier Esteves, a professor at the University of Lille’s center on political science, public law and sociology, which surveyed 900 French Muslim émigrés and conducted in-depth interviews with 130 of them. “France is really shooting itself in the foot.”

French Muslims, estimated at 10 percent of the population, occupy a strangely outsize place in the campaign — even if their actual voices are seldom heard. It is not only an indication of the lingering wounds inflicted by the attacks of 2015 and 2016, which killed hundreds, but also of France’s long struggle over identity issues and its unresolved relationship with its former colonies.

Source: The Quiet Flight of Muslims From France

Ghayyur: Canada’s realpolitik ignores the plight of Muslims in India

Of note:

Human Rights Watch’s 2022 World Report argued that while there is still hope for the world’s democracies, there remain plenty of threats in the distance. In particular, the report noted that a number of governments around the world are committing atrocities while enjoying the reputational benefits of being a democratic country.

India, the world’s most populous democracy and one that was founded on a secular constitutional order, has become one of the worst offenders among them.

After a 2014 electoral victory for his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – a political wing of the Hindu-nationalist paramilitary group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) – Prime Minister Narendra Modi has propelled Hindu nationalism, or Hindutva, into the Indian mainstream. Over the past eight years, the BJP government has adopted policies that discriminate against minority groups, and there has been a surge in violence against those who are not members of the country’s Hindu majority, including attacks on Christian churches and Sikh farmers and abuse of Dalits – all while the government has largely stood idly by.

Muslims have been particularly targeted. In 2019, the Modi government enacted the Citizenship Amendment Act, which allows religious-minority refugees to become citizens unless they are Muslim; it also created a national register of citizens, which threatens to disenfranchise Muslim immigrants or deport others without documentation. High-ranking party officials have vilified Muslims in public remarks. Incidents of mob vigilantism in defence of cows, which are sacred to Hindus, have increased in recent years, with most cases leaving Muslim victims. And in December, a video recording from a conference in northern Indiaattended by party members and religious leaders with ties to the BJP showed militant Hindutva extremists calling for an armed “cleansing” of the country’s more than 200 million Muslims. Mr. Modi has not denounced this incitement of hate and vilification of minority groups, which will only further embolden Hindutva extremists. “We should be crying genocide emergency for India,” declared Dr. Greg Stanton,president of Genocide Watch, a leading human rights watchdog group, at a recent leadership briefing on India.

Even documenting such human rights abuses in Mr. Modi’s India has become dangerous. The BJP and RSS have cracked down on human and civil rights organizations and media in the country. Amnesty International India was forced to shut down its operations in September, 2020, and last year Reporters Without Borders ranked India 142nd on its World Press Freedom Index, which deemed the Indian press less free than Myanmar’s or Uganda’s.

And yet, despite these documented horrific human-rights violations, Canada-India relations continue to improve. Even as India becomes hijacked by an ideology of hatred that aspires to transform the country into an entirely Hindu one, the increasingly authoritarian Modi government continues to hide behind facades of pluralism, democracy and the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violence. And Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has chosen realpolitik above holding the Modi administration accountable for human rights violations in the name of Canada’s economic and security interests.

With Canada’s ties to China deteriorating, the Trudeau government has been looking for partners to help it oppose China’s aggressive international stance. As a result, India is attempting to boost bilateral relations. Canada’s International Trade Minister Mary Ng’s recent meeting with her Indian counterpart, Piyush Goyal, “welcomed a re-engagement on negotiations toward a Canada-India comprehensive economic partnership agreement.”

Although India claims to share Canadian values and interests, its normalizing of Islamophobia and human-rights atrocities demonstrates that this is not the case. Canada must declare human rights a priority and a requirement for any economic or security deals with India.

In the 2022 Human Rights Watch report, executive director Kenneth Roth wonders: Will democratic leaders “act consistently, both at home and abroad, with the democratic and human rights principles they claim to defend?”

This is a question Canadians should ask Mr. Trudeau. Protecting human rights across the world must be a top priority for Canada in 2022. It is past time that Ottawa categorically oppose violence against Muslims and attacks on the religious freedoms of Christian, Dalit, Sikh and Indigenous Adivasi in India. Otherwise, by calling Mr. Modi a friend, Canada makes itself complicit on the international stage.

Source: Canada’s realpolitik ignores the plight of Muslims in India

As Officials Look Away, Hate Speech in India Nears Dangerous Levels

Of note:

The police officer arrived at the Hindu temple here with a warning to the monks: Don’t repeat your hate speech.

Ten days earlier, before a packed audience and thousands watching online, the monks had called for violence against the country’s minority Muslims. Their speeches, in one of India’s holiest cities, promoted a genocidal campaign to “kill two million of them” and urged an ethnic cleansing of the kind that targeted Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.

When videos of the event provoked national outrage, the police came. The saffron-clad preachers questioned whether the officer could be objective.

Yati Narsinghanand, the event’s firebrand organizer known for his violent rhetoric, assuaged their concerns.

“Biased?” Mr. Narsinghanand said, according to a video of the interaction. “He will be on our side,” he added, as the monks and the officer broke into laughter.

Once considered fringe, extremist elements are increasingly taking their militant message into the mainstream, stirring up communal hate in a push to reshape India’s constitutionally protected secular republic into a Hindu state. Activists and analysts say their agenda is being enabled, even normalized, by political leaders and law enforcement officials who offer tacit endorsements by not directly addressing such divisive issues.

After the monks’ call to arms went viral, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his top leaders remained silent, except for a vice president with a largely ceremonial role who warned that “inciting people against each other is a crime against the nation” without making a specific reference to Haridwar. Junior members of Mr. Modi’s party attended the event, and the monks have often posted pictures with senior leaders.

“You have persons giving hate speech, actually calling for genocide of an entire group, and we find reluctance of the authorities to book these people,” Rohinton Fali Nariman, a recently retired Indian Supreme Court judge, said in a public lecture. “Unfortunately, the other higher echelons of the ruling party are not only being silent on hate speech, but almost endorsing it.”

Mr. Narsinghanand was later arrested after he ignored the police warning and repeated calls for violence. His lawyer, Uttam Singh Chauhan, said his speeches may have been a reaction to anti-Hindu comments by Muslim clerics.

Mr. Modi’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party did not respond to requests for comment.

“Does the prime minister or home minister need to address every small, trivial issue?” said Vinod Bansal, a spokesman for the World Hindu Council, a party affiliate. “The accused have already been arrested. The secular groups will always highlight such incidents, but not when Hindus, Hindu gods and goddesses are under attack.”

The hate speech is stoking communal tensions in a country where small triggers have incited mass-death tragedies. The monks’ agenda already resonates with increasingly emboldened vigilante groups.

Vigilantes have beaten people accused of disrespecting cows, considered holy by some Hindus; dragged couples out of trains, cafes and homes on suspicion that Hindu women might be seduced by Muslim men; and barged into religious gatherings where they suspect people are being converted.

In recent weeks, global human rights organizations and local activists, as well as India’s retired security chiefs, have warned that the violent rhetoric has reached a dangerous new pitch. With right-wing messages spreading rapidly through social media and the government hesitant to take action, they are concerned that a singular event — a local dispute, or an attack by international terror groups such as Al Qaeda or the Islamic State — could lead to widespread violence that would be difficult to contain.

Gregory Stanton, the founder of Genocide Watch, a nonprofit group, who raised similar warnings ahead of the massacres in Rwanda in the 1990s, told a U.S. congressional briefing that the demonizing and discriminatory “processes” that lead to genocide have been well underway in India.

In an interview, he said Myanmar was an example of how the easy dissemination of misinformation and hate speech on social media prepares the ground for violence. The difference in India, he said, is that it would be the mobs taking action instead of the military.

“You have to stop it now,” he said, “because once the mobs take over it could really turn deadly.”

The Dasna Devi temple in Uttar Pradesh state, where Mr. Narsinghanand is the chief priest, is peppered with signs that call to prepare for a “dharm yudh,” or religious war. One calls on “Hindus, my lions” to value their weapons “just the way dedicated wives value their husbands.”

The temple’s main sign prohibits Muslims from entering.

The monks’ anger is rooted in a sense of internalized victimhood that dates to the founding of India’s republic after independence from British rule in 1947. When Pakistan was carved out of India in a bloody partition that left hundreds of thousands dead, the Hindu right was incensed that the founding fathers turned what remained of India into a secular republic.

They celebrate a Hindu hard-liner’s assassination of Mohandas Gandhi — a renowned symbol of nonviolent struggle, but to them a Muslim appeaser. Pooja Shakun Pandey, a monk at the Haridwar event, has held re-enactments of Gandhi’s assassination, firing a bullet into his effigy as blood runs down.

The forces that shaped the ideology of Gandhi’s assassin, Nathuram Godse, have slowly risen from the fringes to dominate India’s politics.

Mr. Modi, the prime minister, spent decades as a mobilizer for the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the century-old right-wing organization to which Mr. Godse belonged. Mr. Modi’s party sees the group as the fountainhead of its political ideology and has relied heavily on its vast network of volunteers to mobilize voters and secure victories.

When he was chief minister of Gujarat, Mr. Modi saw firsthand how unchecked communal tensions could turn into bloodletting.

In 2002, a train fire killed 59 Hindu pilgrims. Although the cause was disputed, violent mobs, in response, targeted the Muslim community, leaving more than 1,000 people dead, many burned alive.

Rights organizations and opposition leaders accused Mr. Modi of looking the other way. He rejected the allegations as political attacks.

After he rose to the country’s highest office in 2014 on a message of economic growth, there was hope that Mr. Modi could rein in the fury. Instead, he has often reverted to a Hindu-first agenda that inflames communal divides.

In 2017, Mr. Modi picked Yogi Adityanath, a monk who had started a youth group accused of vigilante violence, to lead Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest state with more than 200 million people.

In his saffron robe, Mr. Adityanath has legislated a ban on religious conversion by marriage, an idea that he calls “love jihad,” in which Muslim men lure Hindu women to convert them. His group has served as moral police, hounding interfaith couples and punishing anyone suspected of disrespecting cows.

As Mr. Adityanath campaigned for re-election, the group held a meeting in New Delhi around the same time as the monks’ event. With a picture of Mr. Adityanath behind them, attendees took an oath to turn India into a Hindu state, even if it meant killing for it.

Mr. Adityanath’s office would not address his current relations with the group, but said the chief minister “had nothing to do” with the meeting.

Dhirendra K. Jha, a writer who has studied the rise of Hindu nationalism, said he worried that extremists now dominate India’s politics in such a way that those who call for violence feel protected.

“Unless this is dealt with, the kind of consequences that may happen — I can’t even imagine, I don’t dare to imagine,” said Mr. Jha.

The choice of Haridwar as the venue for a bold call to violence was strategic — the city attracts millions of visitors annually, often for religious festivals and pilgrimages.

The riverbank was recently busy with seers and worshipers. Families picnicked and took dips in the chilly water. Even as some religious authorities appeared troubled by the calls for violence, they were reluctant to condemn them.

Pradeep Jha, the main organizer of the city’s largest pilgrimage festival, said he shared the vision of a Hindu state, not through violence but by urging India’s Muslims to convert back; in such a view, everyone in India was Hindu at one point.

“I believe we need to pursue our goals with patience, with peace,” he said. “Otherwise, what is our difference with others?”

Mr. Narsinghanand has made a name for himself doing the exact opposite.

As he sees it, India’s Muslims — who account for 15 percent of the population — will turn the country into a Muslim state within a decade. To prevent such an outcome, he has told followers that they must “be willing to die,” pointing to the Taliban and Islamic State as a “role model.

In 2020, Mr. Narsinghanand was among the hard-liners stoking tensions during monthslong protests over a citizenship amendment seen as discriminatory toward Muslims. He called for violence, using the language of a “final battle.” “They are jihadis, and we will have to finish them off,” he said.

Riots followed in New Delhi, with 50 people killed, a majority of them Muslims.

Mr. Narsinghanand was always observant, but not an extremist, according to his 82-year-old father, Rajeshwar Dayal Tyagi.

He was a top college student, earning a scholarship to study food technology in Moscow. There, he helped open a vegetarian restaurant for Indian students that still operates.

Returning to India in 1996, he started a computer training institute with money from Mr. Tyagi’s pension. He soon dedicated his life to being a monk, leaving behind his wife and young daughter, said his father.

“I feel pained, I feel angry, it gives me stress,” his father said. “It’s not a good idea to use harsh words against anybody.”

Despite the police warning, Mr. Narsinghanand and his fellow monks repeated their messages of hate, including on national television and social media.

“This Constitution will be the end of the Hindus, all one billion Hindus,” Mr. Narsinghanand said at a virtual event. “Whoever believes in this system, in this Supreme Court, in these politicians, in this Constitution, in this army and police — they will die a dog’s death.”

When the police came to arrest an associate, he threatened the officers, who politely urged him to calm down. “You will all die,” Mr. Narsinghanand is seen in a video telling them.

The police arrested Mr. Narsinghanand on Jan. 15, and he was charged in court with hate speech.

“He said nothing wrong,” said Swami Amritanand, an organizer of the Haridwar event. “We are doing what America is doing, we are doing what Britain is doing.”

Mr. Amritanand said the call for arms was justified because “within the next 10 to 12 years there will be a horrible war that will play out in India.”

Late last month, the monks again sounded a violent call to create a Hindu state, this time at an event hundreds of miles away from Haridwar in Uttar Pradesh. They threatened violence — referencing a bombing of India’s assembly — if Mr. Narsinghanand was not released.

Ms. Pandey described their actions as defensive. “We must prepare to protect ourselves,” she said.

To the Haridwar police, the event in Uttar Pradesh did not count as a repeat offense. Rakendra Singh Kathait, the senior police officer in Haridwar, said Mr. Narsinghanand was in jail because he had acted again in the city; others like Ms. Pandey got a warning.

“If she goes and says it from Kolkata, it doesn’t count as repeat here,” Mr. Kathait said.

Source: As Officials Look Away, Hate Speech in India Nears Dangerous Levels

Muslim issues not adequately addressed in party platforms, argues advocacy group campaigning for dedicated federal anti-Islamophobia office

New advocacy group but not any new issues:

A new advocacy organization is arguing the federal parties aren’t making sufficient promises related to combating hate crimes against Muslims, and is campaigning for whichever party wins the election to develop an office for combating Islamophobia.

“We don’t think Islamophobia or issues related to Canadian Muslims are being adequately addressed in party platforms. We would have liked to see more concrete commitments, and we don’t see that,” said Sarah Mushtaq, a spokesperson for the Canadian Muslim Public Affairs Council (CMPAC). “We’ve seen the rise of anti-Semitism, of anti-Asian hate crimes, and then specifically Islamophobia. The idea of having this federal office with resources and funding would be [to look] at these issues in a way where we can actually address them from a systemic perspective.”

The CMPAC, a lobby organization dedicated to advancing the interests of Canada’s Muslim population, launched on Sept. 10. Advocacy priorities for the organization include urging the federal government to implement a strategy to address online hate, and to create a federal office that would develop and implement an anti-Islamophobia strategy. The CMPAC is looking for a commitment of $5 million towards a federal anti-Islamophobia office, according to Ms. Mushtaq.

Police-reported hate crimes in Canada reached 2,669 incidents in 2020, representing a 37 per cent increase compared to the 1,951 police-reported hate crimes in 2019, according to Statistics Canada. About 46 per cent of Canadians have an unfavorable view of Islam—more than for any other religious tradition—according to a report on Islamophobia in Canada submitted to the UN Special Rapporteur in Freedom of Religion or Belief on Nov. 30, 2020. The report was submitted by the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, the Islamic Social Services Association, and the Noor Cultural Centre.

“We believe that having an office to address Islamophobia could help address these issues in a more fulsome, systemic way, and address hate crimes across the country instead of just kind of letting communities individually deal with them,” said Ms. Mushtaq. “Having this national framework to address hate crimes would be really helpful to ensure that no community is left behind.”

As part of the launch, the CMPAC released a comparison of the various federal parties’ platforms in the 2021 election, which highlighted the strengths and weaknesses of each party when it comes to addressing issues such as Islamophobia, systemic racism and immigration.

The Liberal Party platform failed to address specific asks of the Muslim community based on the input gathered during the National Action Summit on Islamophobia, according to the CMPAC platform comparison. The summit, held virtually on July 22, provided a platform for Muslim communities to discuss ways to combat Islamophobia in Canada. The Liberal platform has not included any proposal to help prevent Muslim charities from being targeted by audits from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), which was the “number one” issue raised at the summit, according to the CMPAC. Muslim-led charities are “exceptionally vulnerable to audits” and to the revocation of their charitable status, according to a report released on March 29 by the National Council of Canadian Muslims and the Institute of Islamic Studies at the University of Toronto.

On Aug. 5, Minister of National Revenue Diane LeBoutillier announced that Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson François Boileau will investigate the concerns of Muslim charities in their experiences with the CRA. An update on Boileau’s examination is expected to be provided to the National Revenue minister on Jan. 1, 2022, according to an Aug. 5 press release.

“Together with my office, I commit to examining the concerns raised and will engage charitable organizations led by racialized communities to ensure that the service rights we so strongly represent, are upheld by the CRA. But before we take action, we need to take the time to listen and deepen our knowledge of the issues,” said Mr. Boileau in the press release.

The CMPAC said on its website that Boileau’s review is “non-binding and limited in scope,” and criticized the Liberal government for not proposing any reforms in its platform to address the issues facing Muslim-led charities.

As examples of how the Liberals are addressing Islamophobia in their election platform, the CMPAC lists the party’s plan to present a national action plan for combating hate by 2022 as part of an anti-racism strategy, and a proposal to increase investments in the Canada Centre for Community Engagement and Prevention of Violence to combat hate crime.

The CMPAC argues that the NDP platform makes numerous mention of Islamophobia in addressing hate speech and crimes, but, similar to the Liberals, has not included a commitment to address CRA audits of Muslim-led charities.

Regarding the Conservatives, the CMPAC comparison document argues the party’s platform makes no direct mention of Islamophobia. Steps proposed by the Conservatives that could relate to combating Islamophobia includes a plan to fight online incitement and hatred by criminalizing statements that encourage violence.

Ms. Mushtaq said that the CMPAC plans to register on the federal lobbyists’ registry following the federal election on Sept. 20.

Other organizations currently active on the federal lobbyists’ registry related to advocacy for Muslims includes the Muslim Association of Canada and the National Council of Canadian Muslims.

“The Muslim community is not monolithic. It’s a large community and there’s room, as the community continues to grow, for multiple organizations serving the interest of the community together,” said Ms. Mushtaq. “We definitely want to work together. There might be some things that one organization works on, but there’s definitely going to be a lot of work together behind the scenes, as well.”

Islamophobia was the subject of headlines during the 2021 election, when Lisa Robinson, the Conservative candidate in the Toronto riding of Beaches–East York, was dismissed from the party on Sept. 10 for allegedly posting anti-Islamic statements on social media years prior.

Liberal candidate Nathaniel Erskine-Smith posted a tweet on Sept. 10 containing screenshots from a Twitter account called “Ward 1 city councillor candidate,” which contained derogatory comments towards Muslims living in Canada. In his Twitter post, Mr. Erskine-Smith said that “’Ward 1 city councillor candidate’ is none other than Lisa Robinson.”

Ms. Robinson told The Canadian press she is still running as a “confirmed Conservative” candidate despite being officially dropped by the Party. She claims that she never wrote the online posts that led to her dismissal from the Conservatives. In a Twitter post response to Mr. Erskine-Smith, Ms. Robinson said that the Ward 1 city councillor candidate account was fake, and she had reported it to Durham Regional Police in 2018. She also said in her Twitter post that sharing “false information is defamatory” and that Erskine-Smith would receive a libel notice soon.

“They posted a fake picture, claimed that it must be true, and asked me—the victim, to provide proof that it is fake,” said Ms. Robinson in a statement on her campaign website. “If this can be done to me, then it can be done to anyone. Would you want your children subjected to this kind of abuse? If an elected official can spread false information and blame the victim candidate, what else can they be capable of?”

In an emailed statement to The Hill Times, Mr. Erskine-Smith said he would be “open to correcting the record if there is credible information.”

“When I initially saw Lisa’s claim that the account is fake, I privately messaged her and asked her if she had flagged it for Twitter. She said she’d never done so because of a lack of computer literacy, but that she eventually had it removed with the help of a friend. When I asked specifically how that had happened, she stopped responding to me,” said Mr. Erskine-Smith in the email. “I’ve now seen past posts of hers in which she has apologized for remarks, and also in which she has claimed she was hacked. None of it adds up.”

Source: Muslim issues not adequately addressed in party platforms, argues advocacy group campaigning for dedicated federal anti-Islamophobia office

AI’s anti-Muslim bias problem

Of note (and unfortunately, not all that surprising):

Imagine that you’re asked to finish this sentence: “Two Muslims walked into a …”

Which word would you add? “Bar,” maybe?

It sounds like the start of a joke. But when Stanford researchers fed the unfinished sentence into GPT-3, an artificial intelligence system that generates text, the AI completed the sentence in distinctly unfunny ways. “Two Muslims walked into a synagogue with axes and a bomb,” it said. Or, on another try, “Two Muslims walked into a Texas cartoon contest and opened fire.”

For Abubakar Abid, one of the researchers, the AI’s output came as a rude awakening. “We were just trying to see if it could tell jokes,” he recounted to me. “I even tried numerous prompts to steer it away from violent completions, and it would find some way to make it violent.”

Language models such as GPT-3 have been hailed for their potential to enhance our creativity. Given a phrase or two written by a human, they can add on more phrases that sound uncannily human-like. They can be great collaborators for anyone trying to write a novel, say, or a poem.

Source: AI’s anti-Muslim bias problem

Pew Research: Views of Muslims in the US, 20 years after 9/11

Of interest:

An unprecedented amount of public attention focused on Muslim Americans in the wake of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The U.S. Muslim population has grown in the two decades since, but it is still the case that many Americans know little about Islam or Muslims, and views toward Muslims have become increasingly polarized along political lines.

There were about 2.35 million Muslim adults and children living in the United States in 2007 – accounting for 0.8% of the U.S. population – when Pew Research Center began measuring this group’s size, demographic characteristics and views. Since then, growth has been driven primarily by two factors: the continued flow of Muslim immigrants into the U.S., and Muslims’ tendency to have more children than Americans of other faiths.

In 2015, the Center projected that Muslims could number 3.85 million in the U.S. by 2020 – roughly 1.1% of the total population. However, Muslim population growth from immigration may have slowed recently due to changes in federal immigration policy.

The number of Muslim houses of worship in the U.S. also has increased over the last 20 years. A study conducted in 2000 by the Cooperative Congregational Studies Partnership identified 1,209 mosques in the U.S. that year. Their follow-up study in 2011 found that the number of mosques had grown to 2,106, and the 2020 version found 2,769 mosques – more than double the number from two decades earlier.

How we did this

Alongside their population growth, Muslims have gained a larger presence in the public sphere. For example, in 2007, the 110th Congress included the first Muslim member, Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn. Later in that term, Congress seated a second Muslim representative, Rep. Andre Carson, D-Ind. The current 117th Congress has two more Muslims alongside Carson, the first Muslim women to hold such office: Reps. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., first elected in 2018.

As their numbers have increased, Muslims have also reported encountering more discrimination. In 2017, during the first few months of the Trump administration, about half of Muslim American adults (48%) said they had personally experienced some form of discrimination because of their religion in the previous year. This included a range of experiences, from people acting suspicious of them to being physically threatened or attacked. In 2011, by comparison, 43% of Muslim adults said they had at least one of these experiences, and 40% said this in 2007.

A bar chart showing that Americans are more likely to say Muslims face discrimination than to say this about other religions

In a March 2021 survey, U.S. adults were asked how much discrimination they think a number of religious groups face in society. Americans were more likely to say they believe Muslims face “a lot” of discrimination than to say the same about the other religious groups included in the survey, including Jews and evangelical Christians. A similar pattern appeared in previous surveys going back to 2009, when Americans were more likely to say that there was a lot of discrimination against Muslims than to say the same about Jews, evangelical Christians, Mormons or atheists.

A series of Pew Research Center surveys conducted in 2014, 2017, and 2019 separately asked Americans to rate religious groups on a scale ranging from 0 to 100, with 0 representing the coldest, most negative possible view and 100 representing the warmest, most positive view. In these surveys, Muslims were consistently ranked among the coolest, along with atheists.

Over the last 20 years, the American public has been divided on whether Islam is more likely than other religions to encourage violence, and a notable partisan divide on this question has emerged. When the Center first asked this question on a telephone survey in 2002, Republicans and Republican-leaning independents were only moderately more likely than Democrats and Democratic leaners to say that Islam encourages violence more than other religions – and this was a minority viewpoint in both partisan groups. Within a few years, however, Republicans began to grow more likely to believe that Islam encourages violence. Democrats, in contrast, have become more likely to say Islam does not encourage violence. Now, Republicans are far more likely than Democrats to say they believe Islam encourages violence more than other religions.

Though many Americans have negative views toward Muslims and Islam, 53% say they don’t personally know anyone who is Muslim, and a similar share (52%) say they know “not much” or “nothing at all” about Islam. Americans who are not Muslim and who personally know someone who is Muslim are more likely to have a positive view of Muslims, and they are less likely to believe that Islam encourages violence more than other religions.

Source: Views of Muslims in the US, 20 years after 9/11

American Muslims Are 2 Times More Likely To Have Attempted Suicide Than Other Groups

Of note. Wonder if there are compable studies for Canada:

For an entire year that involved emergency room visits, legal proceedings, involuntary unemployment and the death of loved ones, Mehran Nazir struggled with a depressive episode. He would find his mind flooded with self-destructive thoughts. He’d faintly hope his plane from Newark to San Francisco would crash or that he would doze off at the wheel of his car and end up in a fatal accident.

The normally extroverted Nazir would lie paralyzed in bed for hours doing nothing, not wanting to speak with family and canceling plans with friends.

It came to a head when Nazir found himself on the brink of suicide. In his darkest moment, he drafted a will and decided where it would happen.

Eventually, Nazir found comfort in journaling. And when he shared his writings online, he quickly found that other Muslims shared his struggles.

“I realized that this is not something that is unique in my history,” Nazir told NPR. “This was not a random occurrence.”

Nazir was right. U.S. Muslims are two times more likely to have attempted suicide compared with other religious groups, according to a study published last month in JAMA Psychiatry. Nearly 8% of Muslims in the survey reported a suicide attempt in their lifetime compared with 6% of Catholics, 5% of Protestants and 3.6% of Jewish respondents.

“Anecdotally and in clinical settings, we’re definitely seeing an uptick in suicides and suicide attempts,” Dr. Rania Awaad told NPR. She’s the director of the Muslim Mental Health & Islamic Psychology Lab at Stanford University and a researcher on the study.

At the heart of these numbers are several issues

Researchers attribute the high suicide attempt rate to two factors: religious discrimination and community stigma — both of which, they say, prevent Muslim American communities from seeking mental health services.

Earlier this year, a murder-suicide involving a Muslim family in Allen, Texas, sent shock waves through the community. Brothers Farhan Towhid, 19, and Tanvir Towhid, 21, both of whom reportedly battled depression, made a pact to die by suicide and kill the rest of their family so they wouldn’t have to live with the grief. Since then, public discussions on mental health, trainings on suicide response and healing circles have taken on new urgency.

“We have a very long way to go,” Awaad said. “There is just the beginning of a discussion that is happening now.”

There’s still a community stigma surrounding mental health

Naureen Ahmed, now 39, remembers how her family would visit her mother, Seema, at a psychiatric hospital. But the family never openly discussed why she was there.

Some days, Seema would sing along to Bollywood music at home wearing red lipstick. Other days, she’d walk around the house brandishing knives — or jump out of the car on the highway, threatening to kill herself.

Ahmed, a social butterfly at school, was hesitant to invite friends over because she never knew which side of her mother she would get that day.

It wasn’t until she was 25 that Ahmed finally learned why her mom acted that way: she had bipolar depression and schizoaffective disorder, her grandparents told her.

“It was difficult to say it out loud, this secret that I had held inside my entire life,” Ahmed told NPR.

Of the many factors that prevent families or individuals from seeking mental health treatment, stigma is “perhaps the most significant,” according to a 2013 study that looked at the cultural backgrounds of Muslims.

“If you believe that your mental illnesses will bring shame on you or your family, then you tend to stay silent about it,” said Dr. Farha Abbasi, founder of the Muslim Mental Health Conference. Through the conference, hosted by Michigan State University for 13 years, Abbasi hopes to destigmatize mental illness within the Muslim community using open dialogue.

After Ahmed’s mother died in 2012, she created SEEMA to support families like hers who are shamed by the stigma of mental illness, are isolated by their communities or are suffering alone.

SEEMA, launched in 2018, hosts support groups with licensed therapists at community centers and mosques and awareness workshops highlighting the importance of mental health and how to care for someone struggling with a mental illness.

“We need to have these conversations to destigmatize and bring awareness because people think that they’re alone,” Ahmed said.

Religious discrimination makes them more vulnerable

Abbasi, who has studied the impact of growing Islamophobia on Muslims’ mental health, says she was not surprised by the results of the Stanford study.

“Right now, the exposure to toxicity is making us more vulnerable,” Abbasi told NPR.

U.S. Muslims were more likely to report suicide attempts than those from Muslim-majority countries, according to the Stanford study. As a religious minority in the U.S., Muslims are highly vulnerable to religious discrimination, which is associated with depression, anxiety and paranoia.

According to 2020 polling from the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, 60% of Muslims reported personally experiencing religious discrimination. And the FBI’s latest hate crime statistics in 2019 suggest that, of the reported 1,715 victims of anti-religious hate crimes, 13.2% were victims of anti-Muslim bias.

“There’s just trauma over trauma over trauma,” Abbasi says. “The impact of growing Islamophobia, the violence that is being directed against Muslims, all that is having a huge impact on mental health.”

They sometimes find it hard to reconcile their feelings and their faith

Last November, 39-year-old Chicago investor Jessica Ali broke down after separating from her husband.

“I felt that I was unworthy and there was no reason for me to live,” she said. Ali, a mother of three, had attempted suicide for a third time. The first two were in 2008 and 2018. “I started believing that I was crazy, that I must be a bad Muslim.”

That was until she joined a Muslim support group. It was there that Ali, who was diagnosed with severe depression, first came to terms with her mental illness.

“It’s very likely that when you’re sitting at the masjid, somebody in your praying row has felt this way,” Ali told NPR.

Now, Ali takes medication and visits a therapist.

But unlike Ali, some Muslims may not get the help and support they need.

To help jump over these hurdles, Muslim mental health professionals across the country are providing more culturally appropriate and religiously sensitive resources for Muslims.

Culturally appropriate resources can help

Dr. Sameera Ahmed, executive director of The Family & Youth Institute, a Muslim nonprofit, developed a suicide prevention toolkit in 2017 that helps Muslim American families navigate suicide risks, intervention, assessment and prevention.

“There may be mental health providers available, but if an individual doesn’t trust the system, they’re not going to use it,” Ahmed told NPR. “We try to translate the research into culturally and religiously tailored mental health resources that are community informed and disseminated by Muslim American mental health professionals.”

In 2017, the Khalil Center, which offers Muslims faith-based mental health services, launched a hotline that provides a “safe and empathic space” for those in crisis situations. “There’s more awareness happening,” Khalil Center psychologist Dr. Fahad Khan told NPR. “We have seen a rise in those who are seeking services.”

Imams have an integral role in community mental health because Muslim Americans may be more willing to seek help from religious leaders. That’s why Awaad started a campaign to train 500 Muslim leaders on suicide response in their communities by 2022.

“A number of imams came forward and said, ‘We as the religious and community leaders of the Muslim community really need to step up to this discussion,’ ” Awaad said.

Dr. Heather Laird, founder of the Center for Muslim Mental Health and Islamic Psychology, found that Muslims were more likely to seek psychotherapy if it aligned with Islamic values. So she ignited a movement toward Islamic psychology. By Laird’s definition, Islamic psychology is the treatment of the mind and soul within an Islamic context.

As for Nazir, he uses a combination of therapy and journaling to tend to his psychological wounds.

“This battle for mental health is not necessarily you solve it, you cure it, you move on,” Nazir said. “For me, it’s an ongoing journey.”

Source: American Muslims Are 2 Times More Likely To Have Attempted Suicide Than Other Groups