Talk to an American Muslim over free donuts & coffee

talk-to-muslim-over-donuts-coffeeAfter the recent surges in bigoted attacks on American Muslims, Mona Haydar and her husband Sebastian Robins responded in a most unusual, and lovely, way. The American couple, who are both of the Muslim faith, set up a “Talk To A Muslim” booth outside their local public library in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to entice passers-by into friendly conversation over free donuts and coffee.

As Mona explained to The Huffington Post, “[w]e just wanted to bring a smile to people’s faces. We wanted to have heart connections. We wanted to replace the trauma and terror with love by way of doughnuts, coffee, flowers and good conversations.”

Those good conversations included chit-chat, but the couple reports that the exchanges also created valuable moments with immediate significance, such as debunking harmful myths and misperceptions about Muslims and showing their community that they’re just normal people. And as she wrote , “We weren’t out there that long today but the take away was clear: Keep your heads held high, dear Muslim family.”

More broadly, positive interfaith, intercultural interactions—like the kind that Mona and Sebastian generated—are worth fostering because social contact between different communities helps counter prejudice motivated by race, religion, and other factors. That urgent need is underscored by how little of it is happening right now; survey research shows that most Americans—7 in 10—say “they have seldom or even never had a conversation with anyone who is Muslim in the past year.”

For those interested in holding their own booths, Mona offers the following advice, via Boston.com:

I’ve heard from a lot of folks that they want to try the “Talk to a Muslim” booth idea or that they already have! I’m so happy! Yayyyyy! Here are a few tips for success:

1. If you do plan on taking this on, please be really careful and be cognizant of your surroundings. Choose a very public and well trafficked area. We set up shop in front of the public library in Cambridge, MA, one of the more progressive cities in America. We might do it across the river in Boston, but only if we had more support and people.
2. Make sure you do it with a few people. I wouldn’t recommend any less than three. It gets really exhausting after a couple hours, especially since lots of people stop and want to chat, some of them for extended periods- so if you have lots of people who want to do this, take shifts!
3. Let the public safety and/or local police know what you’re doing in advance.
4. Please read the prayers of protection over yourself and your helpers.
5. And above all else….SMILE!!!! This sunnah of Muhammad, upon him be prayers and peace, is the true key to success with this endeavor. I pretty much cracked jokes the entire time with everyone who talked to me 😉
<3
Love & Peace to you all!

The burden shouldn’t just be on this one marginalized group, however. For members of the community, participating and cheering on these efforts are also a great way to show solidarity and crowd out the bigotry: