Why speak up about anti-Muslim tweets?

The British leader’s denunciation of a retweet by President Trump, along with her support for Muslims, adds to a trend against such religious bigotry.

AP Photo
People gather to protest under the banner of Stand Up To Racism, outside the US Embassy in London Dec. 1. The mass protest was called after U.S. President Donald Trump shared anti-Muslim videos on Twitter originally posted online by a British extremist far-right group.

In a rare spat between close allies, British Prime Minister Theresa May has denounced a retweet by President Trump. The original Twitter message included three anti-Muslim videos posted by a nationalist group in Britain. Ms. May said resending such images “was the wrong thing to do.” Her courage to speak out against such biased claims, even if they are spread by a fellow world leader, is as commendable as what she actually said.

And that may be the larger point.

Just as more women now find it in themselves to reveal and denounce acts of sexual harassment and assault, many more non-Muslims are taking a brave stand against religious bigotry directed at Muslims. Their forthright honesty first exposes the wrong belief and then, even more important, asserts the truth about Muslims. In the case of the Trump retweet, May said that British Muslims are peaceful and law-abiding, and have themselves been subject to acts of terror.

Such affirmations aimed at countering anti-Muslim bias may be having a healing impact. According to a Pew survey released in July, nearly 50 percent of American Muslims said they have recently experienced support for being Muslim – a remarkable increase from 32 percent 10 years ago.

In fact, Muslims in the United States are 19 percentage points more likely than the general public to say that Americans are friendly toward Muslims.

“In a sense, with rising Islamophobia has come more support from the American public,” said Amaney Jamal, a professor at Princeton University who served as an adviser for the survey.

In addition, an earlier Pew poll found that the share of all Americans who say there is not much or no support for extremism among US Muslims has risen to 54 percent, up from 45 percent in 2011.

One reason may be that Muslims and non-Muslims are living closer to or working more closely with each other. The same survey found that non-Muslims who personally know someone who is Muslim are far more likely to say there is not much or no support for extremism among US Muslims.

The beneficial effect of these shifts in attitudes may be that Muslims and nonMuslims will be more willing to work together to curb extremists within the Muslim community and to head off terrorist acts. To broad-brush Islam as inherently violent only helps to stoke Muslim extremism. The best course against terrorism lies in accurate depictions of Muslims, not biased retweets against them.

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