Over Labor Day weekend, I had the chance to hear from and meet with an amazing group of people—a group of people who are striving for peace, education, and equality, people looking out for communities other than their own, seeking to end racism and reverse climate change. They recognize their social responsibility extends far beyond their own community. They were not content with their current efforts, though. They continued challenging each other to do more, drawing on values and ideals in their faith tradition. These people were Muslims from all over the United States. I attended Islamic Society of North America’s national convention in Chicago with the help of Shoulder-to-Shoulder, and I learned so much about the Muslim American communities in the United States.
I witnessed talks and panels on everything from contemporary female perspectives in Islam to sustainability in local mosques to considering the problems of mass incarceration. I also attended several sessions in which there was a frank talk about a serious threat to this community: Islamophobia. This community attempting to do so much good must also constantly worry about being the target of hate crimes.
Islamophobia is not the only phenomenon dividing our communities; it’s part of a much larger phenomenon of fear that attempts to demonize all “others.” It’s part of a phenomenon that is killing young black men in the streets. It’s part of a phenomenon that is dehumanizing Latinos and defining them as criminals and thugs. Those in majority communities such as myself, a white, male Christian, are being told to be afraid of anything “other,” and it’s a well-funded campaign.
The Center for American Progress has released a report titled “Fear, Inc.,” which outlines a well-funded and efficient group of organizations that exist to create a culture of fear and distrust towards the Muslim community in America and around the world.
The effects of this fear, distrust, and demonization, or what many call Islamophobia, can be seen in the recent arrest of 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed. To many, the arrest of a boy with a homemade clock (mistaken for a bomb) rightfully seems ridiculous. However, I believe it is proof of the potency with which Islamophobia is poisoning communities towards those who are different. Islamophobia is not only present in Irving, Texas; We have recently heard candidates for President expressing that Muslims aren’t to be trusted with public office.
The American Muslim community simply wants to be treated as what they rightfully are: Americans. As fellow Americans and people of faith, it is important to stand beside our Muslim neighbors and make it clear we won’t stand for this demonization. We need our Muslim neighbors, and they make our communities what they are.
Moving forward, shall I follow the example of some of those who identify with the same faith I do, spreading fear and demonizing the other? Or, do I take the example of the Muslim community I have witnessed, extending my responsibility to care for others outside my own faith community? It seems the latter might be more Christ-like.
Image courtesy of the author.