‘Ask A Muslim’ booth gets surprising response: ‘It’s not enough to be non-violent’

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Seeking to build bridges one conversation at a time, Mona Haydar and her husband Sebastian Robins launched “Ask a Muslim” back in December in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the response has been better than they ever anticipated.

The couple set up a booth outside of the Cambridge Public Library after the deadly terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino and began taking questions about Islam over coffee and donuts, according to Fusion.

Haydar said the goal was “to conquer fear through conversation.”

Today I stepped out of my comfort zone and stood out in a public space holding a box of donuts in front of signs that my husband Sebastian made. “Talk to a Muslim” “Free coffee and donuts” “Ask a Muslim” “Free conversation.” Everyone who stopped to talk to us was so kind and sweet. “Thanks for doing this” was the most common comment and often followed by, “I’m sorry about what’s happening in our country right now. It makes me so sad.” One woman was on the verge of tears and wanted to know when we were coming back so she could bring a box of donuts for us to give out. Funny things happened too. Some people just wanted the coffee but didn’t have a question and were relieved when they didn’t have to ask a question to get coffee. Lol. Others wanted to talk about their own religions and that was fun for us for sure. One of the most heart warming moments was when a high school aged Muslim boy came over and said “I’m so glad you’re doing this! Can I take your picture!?” We weren’t out there that long today but the take away was clear: Keep your heads held high, dear Muslim family. The world is a good and beautiful place with small pockets of hatred here and there. There is an overwhelming amount of love and so remember this post when you are faced with bigotry and hatred towards you or your faith. Remember that you have supporters too. When you are faced with difficulty, remember that ease is right around the corner. Remember that you are as American as apply pie. And I ask you now, since we did this in Cambridge right near the cafe where in Goodwill Hunting Matt Damon asks, “How bout them apples?” How about em? ? #askamuslim

A photo posted by Mona Haydar (@radyahanom) on

“We were really afraid the first time, up to the point where we considered notifying the police,” Robins told Fusion.

An American, Robins met his wife, a Syrian-American Muslim born and raised in Flint, Michigan, on a school trip to New Mexico and later converted to Islam.

The couple’s efforts paid off with a recent People Magazine cover story and video seen here: 

There have been over 100 conversations to date and Haydar said, “We had all these people thanking us for what we were doing.”

“We stepped out of our comfort zone and it paid off. We went and did something that took a lot of guts for us,” she added. “We didn’t feel safe and we did it anyways because we believe in love. We believe that the world is a generous and beautiful place. Period.”

A message to my Muslim family: The world is watching you whether you like it or not. A few thoughts: Please — 1. Don’t pander. It’s insincere and everyone can feel it. 2. Reject the narrative that we are all capable of being radicalized by virtue of simply being Muslim. It’s just untrue. All humans are capable of terrible things regardless of creed. Also- It’s not enough to be non-violent. We must be vocally pro-justice, anti-violence, anti-racist and anti-judgmental. 3. Be nice and courteous. Being generally a nice person all the time to everyone will help you in all facets of your life and this is one of the central messages from the life of the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be prayer and peace. He came to make you a nicer person and to help you know that you must care for others as you care for yourself. 4. Love yourself. You are as welcome and wanted as you want to be. You are a human citizen of this planet Earth. Embrace yourself as the love you are. Loving yourself will make you love everyone else too. And that’s your duty as a Muslim. 5. Everyone and anyone you meet is a creature of God, created by God to coexist with you in this moment in history and time. Embrace that and love everyone. That is our way: The way of Love❤️❤️❤️#AskAMuslim

A photo posted by Mona Haydar (@radyahanom) on

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Tom Tillison

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