Allies took a stand for praying Muslim students at the University of Michigan.

Just days after the election, a Muslim student at the University of Michigan  was approached by a stranger who ordered her to remove her hijab under threat that he would set her on fire.

According to Nusayba Tabbah, the internal vice president of the school's Muslim Students' Association, this was not an isolated event, but rather, an acceleration of an anti-Muslim climate on campus.

In response, the school's Muslim students decided to reclaim their space on campus — a reminder that they have the same right to be there as any other student.

MSA program committee member Rami Ebrahim suggested the group gather to pray one of their five daily prayers, ishaa, in public. In doing so, the community would be making a powerful statement, letting those who seek to antagonize them know that they will not be bullied into hiding who they are and what they believe.


The Muslim Student Association held a group Ishaa prayer at University of Michigan, with two hundred non-Muslims standing guard in a circle around them

Posted by MSA National on Monday, November 14, 2016

A few non-Muslim friends were asked to circle around the group during the prayer as a show of solidarity. What they got was so much more.

"I was surprised and overwhelmed by the number of people there — both Muslim and non-Muslim," Tabbah wrote in an email. The crowd was made up of an estimated 300 people.

Mohammed Ishtiaq, University of Michigan’s Muslim chaplain, leads prayer. Photo by Benji Bear.

"It reminded me that I have a lot to be grateful for," she continued. "We are part of an amazing community that has repeatedly spoken out about the growing hostility towards Muslims and other minorities."

Photo by Benji Bear.

Solidarity and compassion for one another is crucial. Nobody should be made to live in fear because of their religious beliefs or skin color.

"We must not stand silent while facing expressions of bigotry, discrimination or hate that have become part of our national political discourse,” wrote school president Mark Schlissel in an email to students.

Photo by Benji Bear.

Right now, more than any other time in recent history, we must stand on the side of acceptance; we must stand against bigotry. The Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that tracks hate crimes and hate groups, has found the uptick in hate crimes to be greater in the current post-election landscape than even in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Since Election Day, the group has logged more than 400 events of harassment and intimidation.

Now is the time to be an ally to Muslims and other minorities, and that means taking action.

For one, it's important to educate yourselves and to help educate others. Tabbah recommends getting to know your Muslim neighbors, noting that many people who fear or hate Muslims simply don't know any.

Photo by Benji Bear.

Just as important: We can't let this type of bigotry and harassment become the accepted norm.

"I think it's important to speak out when we hear or see something wrong," Tabbah adds.

"We can't let ourselves become desensitized to hateful rhetoric because that just normalizes it."

Photo by Benji Bear.

We don't have to give in to a culture of fear. We can fight back. We can be a force for good in this world.

Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash
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This story was originally shared on Capital One.

Inside the walls of her kitchen at her childhood home in Guatemala, Evelyn Klohr, the founder of a Washington, D.C.-area bakery called Kakeshionista, was taught a lesson that remains central to her business operations today.

"Baking cakes gave me the confidence to believe in my own brand and now I put my heart into giving my customers something they'll enjoy eating," Klohr said.

While driven to launch her own baking business, pursuing a dream in the culinary arts was economically challenging for Klohr. In the United States, culinary schools can open doors to future careers, but the cost of entry can be upwards of $36,000 a year.

Through a friend, Klohr learned about La Cocina VA, a nonprofit dedicated to providing job training and entrepreneurship development services at a training facility in the Washington, D.C-area.

La Cocina VA's, which translates to "the kitchen" in Spanish, offers its Bilingual Culinary Training program to prepare low-and moderate-income individuals from diverse backgrounds to launch careers in the food industry.

That program gave Klohr the ability to fully immerse herself in the baking industry within a professional kitchen facility and receive training in an array of subjects including culinary skills, food safety, career development and English language classes.

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In the autumn of 1939, Chiune Sugihara was sent to Lithuania to open the first Japanese consulate there. His job was to keep tabs on and gather information about Japan's ally, Germany. Meanwhile, in neighboring Poland, Nazi tanks had already begun to roll in, causing Jewish refugees to flee into the small country.

When the Soviet Union invaded Lithuania in June of 1940, scores of Jews flooded the Japanese consulate, seeking transit visas to be able to escape to a safety through Japan. Overwhelmed by the requests, Sugihara reached out to the foreign ministry in Tokyo for guidance and was told that no one without proper paperwork should be issued a visa—a limitation that would have ruled out nearly all of the refugees seeking his help.

Sugihara faced a life-changing choice. He could obey the government and leave the Jews in Lithuania to their fate, or he could disobey orders and face disgrace and the loss of his job, if not more severe punishments from his superiors.

According to the Jewish Virtual Library, Sugihara was fond of saying, "I may have to disobey my government, but if I don't, I would be disobeying God." Sugihara decided it was worth it to risk his livelihood and good standing with the Japanese government to give the Jews at his doorstep a fighting chance, so he started issuing Japanese transit visas to any refugee who needed one, regardless of their eligibility.

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