How to tackle Islamophobic harassment? This French artist’s guide is simply perfect

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Islamophobia has been haunting the world for a while now, and the sentiment is unfortunately growing. Incidents – from discrimination to harassment and sometimes even torture – have been reported around the world. From America to Europe to even in the Indian subcontinent, the incidents targeting Muslims daunt us.

With the ideology that everyone has the right to be, wear and exist according to their beliefs as long as they’re not doing any harm, what can be done to deal with this growing menace of Islamophobia, tactfully and sensitively? How can the regular junta diffuse a tense situation with an Islamophobe?

This French artist has a brilliant solution, and she shows us how. Maeril, a freelance artist and illustrator who is living and working in Paris, posted a guide how to deal against Islamophopic harassment. She made a thoughtful and honest bystander’s guide to deal Islamophobic harassment in both French and English. The post has been designed as part of her work at The Middle Eastern Feminist on Facebook.

While posting the illustration on Tumblr, Maeril has written, “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’!”

In Maeril’s bystander’s guide, she has developed a four-step-approach on how to deal with these uncalled for situations. In the first step, she asks a person to take initiative and engage the victim into a conversation, and ignore the aggressor.

In the second step, she suggests to make small talk about anything, just so long as the person being harassed feel safe.

The third step is crucial as she emphasises, “Don’t acknowledge the attacker’s presence.” Maeril adds that once completely ignored the attacker would feel ‘irrelevant’ and would leave the space, seeing how the victim and the bystander have engaged in a conversation without heeding any attention to his remarks.

And finally, she adds to bring the person being harassed to a ‘neutral’ space. But very significantly she highlights, “Respect their wishes if they tell you they’re ok and just want to go.”

(Source: Maeril/ Tumblr)(Source: Maeril/Tumblr)

The post, which has been applauded on the social media site number of times, is not only sensitive and but also compassionate. It highlights that it is equally important to respect the space of the victim as well as his/her wishes. She urges everyone to just do this: “Do not, in any way, interact with the attacker. You must absolutely ignore them and focus entirely on the person being attacked!”

The post published on August 29 in English version, has over 68, 000 notes, while the French version posted on her Facebook page on August 30 has garnered equal appreciation and has been shared over 800 times, at the time of writing.

According to BuzzFeed News, Maeril developed the illustration “on the idea of non-complementary behaviour.” Non-complementary behaviour is a psychological concept where one adopts the reverse conduct of another person to tackle a situation.

Hope that such sensitive illustration such as developed by Maeril will make this world a better place.

Here’s what she wrote on Tumblr:

Hi everyone!

This is an illustrated guide I made as part of my co-admining work at The Middle Eastern Feminist on Facebook! It will be published there shortly.

The technique that is displayed here is a genuine one used in psychology – I forgot the name and couldn’t find it again so if you know about it, feel free to tell me!

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”!

I’d like to insist on two things:

1) Do not, in any way, interact with the attacker. You must absolutely ignore them and focus entirely on the person being attacked!

2) Please make sure to always respect the wishes of the person you’re helping: whether they want you to leave quickly afterwards, or not! If you’re in a hurry escort them to a place where someone else can take over – call one of their friends, or one of yours, of if they want to, the police. It all depends on how they feel!

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