Bombarded daily by images of a violent interpretation of Islam, Islamophobia is digging deeper into many Western nations.
Fear creates a chasm of distrust that keeps us far from one another. Even before we look across to the other side, we associate the other with the images we’ve seen on the news. We assume ill intent; “They want to harm us.”
When the only thing crossing that rift are weapons, we need an alternative.
Our suggestion: Have a real experience with a Muslim. Take back the ground that fear has settled into. You may be unsure if now is the time to travel in the Middle East. As an American currently living in Jordan, I can say that while the Western media often clumps it in their discussions of a tumultuous region, Jordan remains a safe destination full of welcoming people.
This Fall, Westerners and Arabs are together taking back some of that ground. Shoulder to shoulder, they will be hand-harvesting olives on a local Jordanian farm. The olive branch has long symbolized peace. When we join in the symbolic gesture of picking olives side-by-side, we bridge a gap that has kept us from trusting one another. When we commit to compassionately identifying with others and make ourselves available to have real experiences with Muslims, we take back ground that was given to fear.
After picking olives together, we share a lunch with our hosts and enter into an Arabic tradition, the “bread and salt” contract: if we have eaten together, we have become friends; I will stand with you when problems arise.
If you are hungry for inspiration instead of fear, we invite you to gather around a tree and hand pick olives with local Arabs.
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing, and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there.” – Rumi