Rima Shaid is the executive director of the Muslim Alliance of Indiana. She recently spoke at my school about Muslim rights, Islamophobia, and terrorism. I wanted to bring a more in-depth interview with her to SincerelyMC because I believe her message is very important for Americans. Please enjoy her words and open your eyes to any prejudices held in your own heart or in the hearts of others you know. It is only when we open our eyes and hearts that we can work together against fear and hatred.
Describe your work with the Muslim Alliance. What is the mission of the alliance? What is your favorite part of your job?
RS: My position is the executive director. Our mission is to be advocates for all Hoosiers, engage in inter-faith work, and the legal policy arm of the Muslim community. We are a statewide umbrella organization. We are not a mosque, but more a legal and policy interpretive arm of the Muslim community.
I love my job. It’s been an honor to serve as the executive director since October 2015. To go statewide and meet so many people, engage in conversations, and to testify at the state house has been some of the biggest honors for me.
What was your reaction to the latest travel ban?
RS: I think that Muslim Ban 2.0 is not an upgrade, but a bad sequel. Hearing about potential walls and bans, we have to look beyond the executive order and learn about the humanity of it and what this does to people’s lives and families.
How can citizens fight against hatred and fear in our society?
RS: There’s many things that you can do. You can call your local and federal representatives and let them know that you do not agree with the orders that are coming out of Washington. Our elected officials work for the people, not the other way around. It is your right as a citizen to make those phone calls, and they work. You can also get to know your fellow Muslim Americans or other marginalized groups.
What is it like to be a Muslim in American society?
RS: I believe that being an American and being a Muslim is one identity. And, so, while I’m so proud to be a citizen of the greatest nation of the world, I also realize that we have our flaws. Currently, Muslims are facing the same issues as other Americans. We worry about infrastructure, education, the rise of murders. We are also dealing with racism and Islamophobia. Here, in Indiana, within the last two years, we have had incidents with hate groups. The mosque I grew up going to was recently defiled. That really hits home. We also have instances of girls wearing hijabs being taunted. You almost feel less than, which no citizen should feel.
The Irish, the Japanese, Jewish people, the Soviets—I could make a whole list of people who have been targets of hate in America’s past. Right now, it just happens that Muslims are the core group being targeted. It is sad that people forget that their ancestors were marginalized at one point, and on the fringes of society. If they were to remember that, I hope they would become more inclusive and open. What makes America great are not walls and bans, but our diversity and the values that this country is set on.
Lady Liberty has stood as a beacon of light for hundreds of years, welcoming immigrants and refugees. And now it almost feels like we are having historical amnesia. We are forgetting that people founded this country fleeing religious persecution in Europe. I am proud to stand with the Muslim Alliance as we remember that past and work for a better future.
A huge thank you to Mrs. Shiad for sharing her message!