Bystander’s Guide to Standing up Against Islamophobic Harassment
Have you ever felt powerless while a neanderthal is bullying a defenseless person in public? There are tactics you can use to help, and they’re inspired by a psychological concept called “non-complementary behavior,”which involves responding to an aggressor with a warm demeanor, rather than responding with further aggression that could escalate the conflict.
This guide was made to help people deter bigotry and harassment in public places. The artist is a Paris-based illustrator and filmmaker named Maeril. There’s also a French version as well, since she specifically hopes that her guide will help bystanders combating the growing problem of Islamophobia in France. But this can help people witnessing harrassment against anyone.
In her post about the guide, Maeril elaborated on that: “Some could say: ‘yes but you can use that technique for instances of harassment other than Islamophobic attacks!’, and my reply is: Sure! Please do so, it also works for other ‘types’ of harassment of a lone person in a public space!! However I’m focusing on protecting Muslims here, as they have been very specific targets lately, and as a French Middle Eastern woman, I wanted to try and do something to raise awareness on how to help when such things happen before our eyes–that way one cannot say they ‘didn’t know what to do’!”
1.) Engage conversation [with the person experiencing harassment, not their attacker]. Go to them, sit beside them and say hello. Try to appear calm, collected and welcoming. IGNORE THE ATTACKER.
2.) Pick a random subject and start discussing it. It can be anything: a movie you liked, the weather, saying you like something they wear and asking where they got it…
3.) Keep building the safe space. Keep eye contact with them and don’t acknowledge the attacker’s presence: the absence of response from you two will push them to leave the area shortly.
4.) Continue the conversation until the attacker leaves and escort them to a safe place if necessary. Bring them to a neutral area where they can recollect themselves; respect their wishes if they tell you they’re ok and just want to go
It’s a great set of tips for defusing a horrible situation, and it could end up ensuring the safety of someone else with only a few minutes of emotional effort on your part.