“Do you think that you will enter paradise without such trials as came to those who passed away before you? They experienced suffering and adversity and were so shaken in spirit that even the Prophet and the faithful who were with him cried, ‘When will Allah’s help come?’ Ah, verily the help of Allah is near.” (The Holy Quran 2:214).
Negative media coverage about Islam and Muslims is an unfortunate reality of our current era. Such news stories can cause emotional stress on Muslims, especially Muslims who are active in combating stereotypes about Islam and more obviously Muslim people, such as women who wear the headscarf.
Many Muslims may feel intimidated, discouraged and frightened by the continuous negative portrayals of Islam and Muslims. The media is certainly not always to blame, but for many Muslims it seems that the media does not give a care if what or how they portray a story will create a harmful backlash against tolerant, moderate Muslims who are trying to be positive members of their communities.
Here are some ways that I have found useful in dealing with the stress of negative news stories about Muslims:
1. Acknowledge your stress and negative feelings, such as hopelessness, sadness, confusion, fear, etc. Denying that these feelings exist will prevent you from actually overcoming them. Be honest with yourself, and then work through those feelings in order to replace them with more helpful feelings (such as a determination to do something constructive/helpful).
2. Along that line, look for helpful and constructive actions to take, such as posting a facebook article about Islam or about Muslims who are working for positive causes. (Example: when a certain terrorist attack takes place, post a condemnation of this attack by a prominent Muslim group, such as the Council for American Islamic Relations or the Islamic Society of North America).
3. Discover coping skills that work for you. Talk to someone about your feelings, go for a walk, write in a journal, and of course, the number one action to take is to talk to Allah (swt) and pray that He helps you and the ummah in this stressful time.
4. Remember that Allah (swt) is Wise and All-Knowing and that He will reward you for your patience and hardships. Allah is also the Most Kind and Most Merciful; He hears all of your duaas/prayers and He is the source of all help. Whatever happens will happen by His Divine Decree, and we must remember to accept His decree and be patient, while at the same time do our best to improve our situations.
5. Remember that it is normal to feel down sometimes and to feel disheartened by the negative portrayals of Muslims in the media. Just try to find ways to feel better and give yourself hope.
6. Use these stressful times as an opportunity to train yourself to be calm during stressful situations (Chapter 10 of my book).
7. A useful statement I once heard a Shaykh say was something like, “We cannot stop the media from reporting the way they choose to report stories about Muslims, but we can try to be the best examples of Islam that we can be to whoever we meet and interact with.”
May Allah (swt) help us to represent our faith in the best way possible and to please Him, Ameen.