This bystander’s guide to Islamophobic harassment was created by a young illustrator and filmmaker who works in Paris and goes by Maeril. She made versions in both French and English.
Below the guide, Maeril wrote that this technique works for any kind of harassment in a public space, but she was specifically focusing on the Islamophobia she’s witnessed in Paris.
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!
Let’s break down Maeril’s strategy, shall we? The first step is to engage the victim in conversation, ignoring the aggressor.
Maeril suggests attempting small talk about anything, just so long as you’re making the person being harassed feel safe.
And then just keep going until the aggressor completely runs out of steam.
And lastly, if things really haven’t calmed down, try to bring the person being harassed to a safe space.