Taking a Stand Against Islamophobia: The World Mosaic Project
In December of 2015, my friend Logan and I created a social media campaign called the World Mosaic Project. We launched the campaign in direct response to the rhetoric-riddled international political climate and the fear-mongering media coverage of the refugee crisis following a string of terror attacks across the globe. Donald Trump had recently proposed the banning of Muslims from the US and a large and very damaging wave of Islamophobia and xenophobia had swept across both the media and political landscapes.
The intention of the campaign was simple: to take a stand and unite the world against this wave of Islamophobia and xenophobia. The message that we wanted to spread was that our society is like a mosaic. And like a mosaic, each individual piece should be valued and appreciated because it’s the combination of all the pieces that ultimately make our society beautiful. Whether you’re a Muslim or a Christian or an atheist, born in Canada or are a refugee or an immigrant from overseas — you are a unique and significant piece of this beautiful mosaic. And because we are a mosaic, we must make it our priority to not succumb to fear and hate, but to instead acknowledge the strength of our cultural diversity and recognize the fundamental equality of all people.
Spreading the Message
To spread this message of love and acceptance, we encouraged people to take photos of themselves holding signs that had messages related to diversity or quotes advocating for love and peace on them. People would then upload those photos on their social media, along with a status/caption that included the hashtag #worldmosaic and a statement or even a story of how diversity was a part of their life and why they decided to stand up against Islamophobia. Through these social media posts, we wanted to spread our message of love, make a statement and, in a way, unite people in a stand for basic human rights and freedoms.
The campaign first started to spread from my floor in Lister Centre, 9 Mackenzie. While we promoted it to our friends and family on our own social media accounts, we were also able to spread the campaign to the other residences and student groups on campus. Eventually the campaign spread beyond our own campuses reaching locations throughout Alberta. From there, we reached out to Mayors all across the Canada, and were warmed to see how many of them began to join the movement.
Mayors Don Iveson and Naheed Nenshi stand united with #worldmosaic
More than a year later, the World Mosaic Project has now reached various leaders, politicians and people from around the globe. The reach of the campaign has made it to places like New Zealand, Australia, China, England, and yes, even the US. The desire for people to share their need for a world of love and acceptance does reach across boarders, and by simply reaching out and talking to them about the issue, the project is proving this.
Now, many people are often surprised to hear that I’m not Muslim. Neither are my friends that helped to launch the project. But the truth is, it doesn’t really matter whether we’re Muslim or not. Everyone should stand up and speak out — not because we ourselves have been targets of Islamophobia or xenophobia but simply because it is the right thing to do. It’s important to remember that just because an issue doesn’t directly affect you does not mean that it doesn’t affect you at all. People of different religions or of no religion at all should stand up against Islamophobia — just as straight people should stand up against homophobia and men should stand up against misogyny. As JFK once said, “the rights of every person are diminished, when the rights of one person are threatened.” And after all, if we are living with a fear and hatred of our neighbours, colleagues, and classmates, are shackled by irrational apprehensions of outsiders and people who live their lives differently than us, are we ourselves truly free?
I think to understand an issue like Islamophobia and the effect it can have, we have to think of something that we’re proud of and that we as individuals strongly identify with. To do so is to understand what it would be like to identify and define yourself by your faith in Islam.
Islam is a religion whose followers ceaselessly seek peace in their lives and their relationships. When you proudly live a life and practice a religion of peace, the most horrible thing in the world would have to be suddenly seeing yourself and your friends and family become the targets of hate.
Everyone is proud to be someone or be a part of something and we should value who each of us is proud to be. We should all have the freedom to live a life we’re proud of.
Right now, it’s absolutely vital to stand up and to speak out, to take action, and to find it within ourselves to love and to spread love. Have discussions and debate wherever you can, speak out against any injustice wherever you see it. Don’t delete people off Facebook if they disagree with you or leave a room if someone holds a different perspective than you; speak out. Plant your feet firmly in the ground and never stop fighting for what you believe is right.
The Ripple Effect
Islamophobia and xenophobia are among the biggest problems in the world today. I think it’s very important to remember the power that numerous little acts can have in the face of great problems. Too often, we believe that grand acts are necessary for change or that we alone can’t make a difference. Robert F. Kennedy once wrote that “each time someone stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, they send forth a tiny ripple of hope, and those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” A ripple could be something as simple as choosing to love rather than to hate. A ripple could be a random act of kindness or calling someone out for something they said. A ripple could be choosing to look at the world’s problems, not with cynicism but with hope for change.
I believe that we can build a current out of all these ripples just as I believe we can build a world mosaic. Change is possible but it’s going to take persistence, patience and perseverance. A major part of the campaign has been the age old saying, “united we stand, divided we fall.” It’s going to take all of us, so let us continue to stand united.