This article appeared in the October 26, 2018 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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The importance of nonbinary thinking

Michael Dwyer/AP/File
A supporter of President Trump argued with a counterprotester at a “Free Speech” rally by conservative activists on Boston Common in Boston last year.
Clayton Collins
Director, editorial innovation

The isolating notion of “the other” spiked again in a week dominated by news of improvised explosive devices.

The US administration weighs blocking asylum-seekers. Race flares as a homestretch issue in the midterms. A blackface comment drops from the lips of a TV media star.

Islamophobia happens not to be the current centerpiece, even though it was stirred into the migrant caravan saga with a mention of “unknown Middle Easterners.” On that particular strain of fear-stoking, though, it’s worth knowing about one graceful teller of a counternarrative.

When Heraa Hashmi, a college student in Colorado, was told by a classmate that “all terrorists are Muslim,” unchecked by others in the Muslim world, she began crafting a response. It took the form last year of a widely seen 712-page spreadsheet detailing Muslim condemnation of violence.

The feedback she got urged her to add nuance. Was she somehow just contributing to the idea of “good” vs. “bad” Muslims? She worried about promoting such “unhelpful binaries,” as she told the Turkish website TRTWorld recently. It struck her that, as she put it, “[w]e sometimes play into this by attempting to present ourselves as ‘moderate Muslims,’ Muslims who only exist in a way that makes other people feel comfortable in their prejudices.”

That idea of blunt binaries bears watching in what seems to be a season of anger. Matt Grossmann wrote this week in FiveThirtyEight that more voters now are running to parties that shape their beliefs rather than reflecting ones that they’ve formed themselves. That can feed “otherness” too. 

Now to our five stories for your Friday. 

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This article appeared in the October 26, 2018 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 10/26 edition