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      Opinion

      How to Fight Islamophobia

      New Zealand model Georgia Fowler says the answer is simple: through public displays of love and compassion.

      image
      Getty

      In Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 15, 2019, a heavily armed terrorist took 50 Muslim lives at a time when they were supposed to be at their most peaceful: in a mosque, praying.

      When this horrific attack happened, I struggled to express my emotions, and still continue to do so. As a New Zealander, I’m in shock that this could ever happen in a nation that values its multiculturalism and commitment to peace. My heart is broken—for the victims and their families, for New Zealand, and for any minority, culture, or group who has ever been made to feel unwelcome in my homeland or elsewhere.

      In the days following, I discussed the attack privately with my peers to process these feelings and thoughts. I have never used my platform to speak out about issues that matter to me, mostly because of the I’m one person, what can I do? mentality that plagues so many of us. But I've learned that as a community, we all need to take direct action against anything that seeks to separate us.

      It’s not just important to talk, but also important to be a vocal ally to those in the day-to-day trenches, fighting the battle against hate, bigotry, xenophobia, and racism. Every person needs to take on the responsibility to learn about, and publicly show true empathy for, different cultures and minorities. We need to get to know our neighbors better, taking opportunities to connect with the communities around us, to open our hearts with abundance. And all of us must call out racism and demeaning behaviors.

      We must confront the everyday stereotypes that underpin and enable racism to exist. We must stand up to the stranger on the street who makes a derogatory remark; we must protect the woman abused on the train; and we must tell our families why their comments are damaging. Yes, it is easier to stay silent. It’s hard work to push through the desensitization of continuous headlines, to realize that even though you are one person, you can make a difference. Use your voice loudly and proudly.

      I am not only getting involved because this attack happened in New Zealand—this is a big, worldwide wake-up call that millions of people globally are targets of extreme violence and bigotry everyday. It is an ongoing learning experience for all of us. And while we need to fight for the long haul, we also need to realize that it starts with the small, immediate gestures of love and compassion. The only way things will improve is by consistent progress, propelling us forward.

      I am proud of our Prime Minister, Jacinda Arden, who has actioned change with compassion; she shared in the grief of the victims, while banning military style semi-automatic weapons to ensure a safer New Zealand, for everyone.

      I am also proud of the actions of my fellow New Zealanders as they stood unified in a National Day of remembrance on March 22nd, in addition to the many vigils and displays of solidarity with the victims after the shooting occurred. It warms my heart to see the love and oneness that has come out of this hateful and tragic attack. Communities have come together to mourn, learn, and grow. People are committed to confronting these problems head on. He was espousing hate, but it has had the opposite effect.

      Love and understanding will allow our communities to heal, but actions will cause long lasting change.

      Join me to stand alongside our Muslim brothers and sisters in a march against Islamophobia in New York on Sunday March 24 2:30 p.m. at Times Square, Broadway and 7th ave.

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