Can Faith Leaders Help Heal Islamophobia in the Kosher Aisle?

By Janaan Hashim, Esq.

Trustee, Parliament of the World's Religions

My 22-year-old daughter stopped off at a nearby store to grab some groceries on her way home from work. She has frequented this store and its Kosher section since moving closer to work, happy to find a place that sells food that she can eat, since food from “ahalal kitab” or “people of the book” is considered halal, or permissible for Muslims to eat.

At first she thought it was her post-work appearance that caused the looks and, with one woman in particular, the glares.

Zaineb carries her grandmother’s Scotts-Irish complexion, and, but for her hijab, no one would know she is Muslim. But she has chosen to wear her hijab since her younger days, proud to be Muslim and happy to practice her faith without inhibition.

In the store, Zaineb told me, the glaring woman kept crossing her path. And then, out of nowhere, she approached Zaineb and, with a scowl on her face, said straight to Zaineb, “Yikh,” then turned and left.  Zaienb was stunned. And then it clicked. The realities of the Holy Land have seeped across our borders and onto our land.

I listened to Zaineb, reflected, and prayed. What emboldened this woman to do such an ugly act toward my daughter? Would she have the fortitude and gall to do this to a Black woman, a Hispanic, a White? Doubtful.

I then realized that if people can feel so empowered as to approach a complete stranger and strew their hate toward her, then America hasn’t matured over the decades; in fact, it’s more of an illusive maturity we have, more superficial than substantive. To me, this woman’s action is the continuation of an ugly, downward spiral for Muslim Americans. But, I truly believe, it can be stopped, and it can be stopped now.

I call upon faith leaders to remind their congregants of the importance of always seeing the human in the other. My daughter did nothing wrong.  And yet, a strange woman decided that my daughter was less than she.  Faith leaders, remind your worshipers to love the other simply because of who created the other and out of love for that creator. Remind your congregants that we are all God’s children and not to let political differences abroad interfere with the human dignity afforded here at home.

Our laws are in place to bring civility to an otherwise chaotic society. And while we may have two rights directly opposing each other - freedom of expression and freedom of religion – I urge our faith leaders to take charge and remind their members of the importance of doing unto others as they would have done unto themselves.

Faith leaders: I charge you with maintaining the civility that our faiths call upon. I charge you with sending a message of peace and harmony between your congregants and the strangers they meet. I charge you with guiding your people toward not judging a “woman by her clothing” but to, rather, judge others by their actions, and not the actions of people in a land far away.

My daughter was in a store shopping in America of the 21st Century. Let’s make sure that years from now, such judgmental and degrading treatment is seen only as an isolated incident and not something so endemic that those on the wayside were too blind to see it, too blind to stop it. Faith leaders and people of faith: let’s stop this hate before it winds into an uncontrollable, spiral downturn that our country has seen in the past.


Janaan Hashim, Esq. is a Trustee of the Parliament, partner at Amal Law Group, LLC and adjunct professor at McCormick Theological Seminary.

Featured Image courtesy of Flickr – Steve Browne & John Verkleir

Above Right: As tensions rise across faith lines during the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Parliament Trustee Janaan Hashim shares this photo of 22-year-old daughter Zaineb who experienced hate speech by a shopper in a Kosher section of a grocery store.

Above Left: Zaineb with two of her students in an after-school student enrichment program for Chicago’s inner-city kids which she founded while in college.

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