In my world of global virtual team building, cross-cultural communication, and leadership coaching, diplomacy and empathy are often my most useful tools. The cornerstones of my practice include listening to clients, drawing out their own wisdom, and meeting them where they are. When I consult I provide advice, tips, strategies, and solutions, but still with the clients’ needs in mind.
As you can imagine, however, when I come across extreme prejudice, ignorance, and bias, in spite of my diplomatic nature, I feel compelled to speak up, and with a strong voice. This is not easy, but it has become necessary.
In the last several months due to violent, heinous events surrounding various extremist groups such as ISIS and Boko Haram, I have seen a significant spike in anti-Muslim sentiments on my Facebook feed, among my acquaintances, and in online news sources. Most of the comments are directed at Muslims as a group, making no distinction between extremists and the millions of Muslims living as most do – working, going to school, caring for their families. The inflammatory internet posts mostly come from people that I know for a fact have no direct exposure to Muslims. They have no Muslim friends, relatives, or coworkers.
One recent situation struck me harder than most, being a person of Jewish faith. A prominent Atlanta-based rabbi made a Rosh Hashanah sermon in which he said that a “holy crusade” against Islam is needed to “exterminate it utterly and absolutely.” (Read the full sermon here; scroll about halfway down to skip the opinion piece: http://mondoweiss.net/2014/10/genocidal-atlanta-hashanah).
In addition, I continue to hear the following question asked: Why aren’t more moderate Muslims condemning ISIS and other terrorist organizations? They are. Those much sought-after condemnations are plentiful. See the links below for examples.
As an intercultural practitioner I feel it is critical, now more than ever, to remain aware of humanity’s ability to make villains of an entire group of people based on the actions of a few. This has happened repeatedly in history and always with disastrous consequences. Many of my Muslim friends have recently received hate mail and death threats based on nothing more than their appearance. Their attackers of course have no knowledge of the charity work they do, of the care they provide their children and grandchildren, or of their strong sense of giving.
I empathize with the fear people experience when they see the cruel and barbaric acts of organizations like ISIS. I too feel afraid and angry. No excuses could ever be made, no debate could ever take place over the heinous crimes of ISIS and Boko Haram. The international community must do everything in its power to condemn and put a stop to such destruction. Alongside those actions, however, we must ensure that in our effort to fight evil we do not poison ourselves. We must resist the temptation to merge people together into a mass, when in fact they are separate. This lumping together generates dangerous attitudes and more crimes toward innocent people. It also detracts from the critical issues of extremism.
If you hear anti-Muslim sentiments rooted in ignorance, I urge you to speak up through providing factual information (see links below or ask us for resources). You do not have to agree with any of the tenants of the Islamic faith to do so. You need only to want to stop a pattern that has proven time and again to bring out the worst in all of us.
Links to Muslim Community Response to ISIS (Courtesy of the Islamic Speakers Bureau of Atlanta)
ISB of Atlanta Denounces ISIS