Everyday People Resisting Islamophobia

In this brief Teachable Instant activity, students learn about ways that people in the U.S. and around the world have stood up to anti-Muslim bias.   

To the teacher:

Ask students to read the material below, or share it with them verbally. 


Everyday people vs. Islamophobia

The massacre in Orlando on June 12, 2016 by an American-born man who professed allegiance to the terrorist group ISIS has led to a new surge of anti-Muslim bigotry and Islamophobia.

Prejudice against anyone who practices the Muslim faith - or even against anyone who is imagined to be Muslim—has been fueled by hateful political rhetoric. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has even proposed that no Muslim immigrants be admitted to the country for the foreseeable future.  He is playing to fears that a terrorist might slip in among the refugees the U.S. has taken in from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. The U.S. has accepted relatively few of these refugees, who are fleeing war, terrorism, and hardship. But European nations have opened their doors to hundreds of thousands.

Across the world, individuals and groups have taken action to stand up to bias against Muslims, fight fear and hatred, and demonstrate humanity to Muslim refugees.

  • In Germany, the country which has accepted the largest number of refugees, hundreds of ordinary citizens have opened their homes to host immigrants fleeing the violence in the Middle East.
  • Canada too, has welcomed refugees. At the airport, welcome signs and welcome packages await the immigrants. Sponsoring organizations around the country have raised over $20,000 for each refugee for housing, clothing, food and education. (Watch this welcome message by Canadian schoolchildren for Syrian refugees.)
  • A multi-national group (Techfugees) of over 10,000 techies has organized workshops, conferences and hackathons in a dozen countries to help refugees use technology and social media to start businesses and meet their personal needs.


1. How many refugees are there in the world?

a. 15 million.
b. 60 million.
c. 22 million.
d. 1 billion.

Answer: (b), 60 million

2. What percentage of the refugees from Syria are children?

a.  None--Children are staying with one parent while the other parent leaves to find a safe haven.
b. 12%
c.  Between 70 and 75%
d.  No one knows because many adults give false ages.
e.  38% are under 12

Answer:  (e), 38%

And in the U.S....

In the U.S., people are also standing up to bias and showing their solidarity with Muslim people.

  • In Orange, California, three Muslim women were eating ice cream at Andrew's Ice Cream and Dessert. A man approached them and began berating them, saying he didn't want them in "my country."  Store worker Jessie Noah kicked the man out of the store, telling him "If you can't be nice, we don't want you!" Two of the women, Malaak Ammari and Nura Takkish, made the incident public with a cell phone video which brought media attention and hundreds of ice cream-eating supporters to the store the next day.
  • In May 2016, a group calling itself "American Bikers United Against Jihad" put out a call for "biker patriots" to join them in a parade down the main street of Islamberg in rural upstate New York.  The call went on to claim that the quiet community of mostly African-American Muslims was the center of a terrorist training network. (This claim came despite the community’s decades of friendly relations with surrounding communities and with local police.)  But on the day of the "parade," only  five bikers and a few anti-Muslim motorists showed up.  They were met by almost 400 people from surrounding communities there to support Islamberg's residents. They lined the road holding signs (one read "Biker Bigots Begone"), sang the Star Spangled Banner, listened to some speakers, and were served a delicious meal by the people of Islamberg.
  • In Idaho a 91-year-old woman named Louise heard a doctor, Fahim Rahim, on the radio expressing concern about Donald Trump’s plan to ban Muslim immigrants from America. It was her kidney doctor. She decided to show her solidarity and support for Rahim the best way she knew how--with some crocheted stuffed animals and some kind words.
  • After a threat against Muslims was discovered in a bathroom at Virginia Tech, students created the hashtags #HokiesDon'tHate and #WeStandTogether. The Youtube video they posted proclaimed that "We stand together in solidarity. We are not afraid of our diversity. That is what makes us strong." Several thousand supporters came to a rally to demonstrate their support.
  • Martha DeVries is a high school guidance counselor in Kansas City, Missouri. After listening to a sermon by her Christian pastor about challenging ourselves "to make a difference," DeVries decided that her personal challenge would be to wear a hijab to school every Monday (after discussing the appropriateness of this act of solidarity with some Muslim friends). "It’s really easy to be a Christian in the United States. Lots of people share my faith, lots of people share my holidays, so it’s not really a struggle. What’s a headscarf? It’s 3 yards of material. That shouldn’t separate me from someone whose humanity is so much like mine."

These acts are personal and small. But sometimes it's those small and personal acts that take the most courage and have the most meaning for all involved.


How many Muslims are there in the United States?

a. 3.3 million
b. 10.3 million
c. 330,982 (on May 26, 2016)
d. 20.3 million
e. No count yet. The census is still in progress.

Answer: (a), 3.3 million.



For Discussion:

1. How much responsibility do politicians bear for whipping up anxiety about Muslims in our country? How much is the media responsible?

2. What are some of the obstacles to speaking out or intervening when you witness an act of bigotry? Why might it take courage to speak up?

3.  Discuss with students whether an act of solidarity would be helpful in your school or community, and if so, what that action might be.