Fighting Stereotypes with Faith, Ctd.
The muslimahMERICAN blog featured a guest post from Chris Stedman earlier this week that’s a great example of the principles we highlighted earlier — personal stories are one of the most effective ways to fight stereotypes.
Chris’s story highlights how he discovered that his identity as a queer atheist actually gave him some insight and opportunity to connect with and learn from the Muslim-Americans he worked with. An excerpt:
Working with the Muslim community in Chicago, I realized how problematic my “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach to working with the Muslim community in Minneapolis had been; how my refusal to engage the religious identities of those I worked with at [a local community center] closed me off from countless opportunities to build bridges of understanding and respect with a community I honestly knew very little about, aside from my academic study of Islam. And how, by refusing to open up to them about my own beliefs and experiences, I denied them the opportunity to learn about me–to really know me and understand the challenges that I faced.
Religious and LGBTQ identities are important, and when we try to tuck them away in some dark and dusty corner we lose something integral. When open discussion about essential aspects of our identity becomes taboo–when we are forced to silence the stories of who we are and what matters to us–intolerance goes unchallenged and we are its accomplices, complicit in allowing others to be cast aside. When we see the other as so different that we think we can find no common ground, we allow others to see them as not-quite-human, too.