Originally published in Al-Nisa Ed.3
Chapel Hill: Too Much Sympathy, Little Understanding
In the Chapel Hill shooting the families explain that they believe undoubtedly that their children are victims to hate crime because, simply, the neighbour only started hating when Yusor, veiled and visible, moved in. Deah’s proximity to whiteness became useless. He was now Muslim.
While the targets of harsh counter-terror legislation are most often men, stereotyped and monitored as potential terrorists, though their women and children do suffer the trauma of such inhumane law enforcement, women are predominantly the victims of unsanctioned, vigilante type assaults that can be condemned and punished by the highest men in office who wash their hands from any culpability.
As Muslims who read about the attacks we feel a gripping fear for our safety, the safety of our children, sisters, mothers, and unfortunately need to impose limiting precautions to be better safe than sorry. We’re taught to report incidents of hate crime and we’re learning about our rights against discriminating employers and teachers.
We’re taught to use the law for our protection, we’re told by Obama that no one should be targeted for their race or religion. Of course no one should. No woman should suffer for her choice.
Yet we are suffering, we are targeted and when we call for all of it to stop, we often receive nods and sympathy, but little understanding or willingness to move beyond surface comforting to real solutions.
From following the interviews, I don’t think the Chapel Hill families want worldwide mourning. They’re praying for no more hate, a message that would mean an end to fear-mongering political leadership, an end to scapegoating, hate-fuelling media, an end to ignorance and self-righteousness that legitimises for a man to hold a gun against innocent Muslim families, whether in American neighbourhoods, Sydney raided suburbs, or villages in Muslim nations.
If we truly are to care for the safety of Muslim women from racist attacks, we will have to address the roots of heightened Islamophobic attitudes that give white men an entitlement and justification to police Muslim women, whether through verbal abuse, pulling off her veil, or punishing her for being who she is.
We shouldn’t be asking Muslim women to be careful, though we’ll have to be. The burden is on the societies we live in to become safer, more inclusive homes and that will only happen when #muslimlivesmatter moves from being an imitation hashtag to a movement that demands an end to the dehumanising objective violence that becomes ever so invisible through politician anger at hate crimes.
I’m not sure it’s that great that we have so many supporters showing their indignation at hate crimes because when we think of women’s safety what we’re really concerned with is how to nurture positive environments for our families, and as the Chapel Hill fathers taught us, that won’t be through seeking punishment.
The fathers realise how limited such focus can be and I hope we, too, put forward the expectation to anyone claiming to be concerned with Muslim women’s safety that we believe there won’t be an easy, short-cut way to ensure the protection of Muslim women, their men and their children. It certainly won’t be through the half-hearted sympathy of the political elite and their organisations/programs.