Are there rays of hope after Orlando?

Are there rays of hope after Orlando — and San Bernardino, Paris, Brussels… ?

I think so, even amid the carnage and the horror:

  • More people, even in the media and law enforcement, have stopped lumping all Muslims together with terrorists. For instance, Police Chief J. Thomas Manger of Montgomery County, Md. recently remarked, “Radicalization is not occurring in mosques. It’s going on in a basement or a bedroom somewhere, with an individual sitting in front of a computer.”
  • Increasing numbers of Jewish and Christian allies are standing up against anti-Muslim bigotry. The latest is We’ve Seen This Before, which opposes the presumptive Republican candidate specifically because of his record of bigotry against Muslims and others.
  • More American Muslims are reaching out to their neighbors and participating in interfaith events. A good example is Multifaith Encounters, a national campaign created and led by ING that brings Muslims together with people of other faiths and cultures for face-to-face engagement, relationship-building, dialogue, and action. This campaign is part of the national Know Your Neighbor Coalition, initiated at the White House, with ING’s participation, several months ago.


  • Americans of all faiths and none are showing increasing interest in learning about Muslims and their faith. Requests for ING presentations have gone up significantly over last year’s.
  • Alliances among organizations representing minority groups are growing stronger. One example: I attended the Prayer Vigil in San Francisco’s Castro district the night of the Orlando attack. I had been asked to speak before a crowd of 5,000 people, but instead I called on Dr. Suzanne Barakat to speak. She is the sister of Deah Barakat, one of the students murdered in Chapel Hill last year by someone hostile to religion. I was heartened to hear a San Francisco Supervisor say to an affirming crowd that despite the tragedy in his LGBTQ community, he was even more concerned about anti-Muslim bigotry as a result of the Orlando attack and that we need to stand united against all bigotry.

How did people develop sensitivity towards Muslims and understanding of Islam over the years, and how should American Muslims respond?

The obvious:  Americans couldn’t have developed empathy towards Muslims without being touched either by a Muslim directly or by learning about their faith and values. That is why the work of education and interfaith engagement is so important.

Not only do education and engagement prevent hate, discrimination, bigotry, and bullying, but they also develop Upstanders, people who stand up to bigotry when and where they see or hear it.


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Maha Elgenaidi
Chief Executive Officer


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