Our Executive Director, Michael Ramos, wrote the following Message in Solidarity with Our Muslim Neighbors:
The group called “Act for America,” an anti-Muslim organization with national chapters, considered a hate-group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, is holding a rally which is currently scheduled to take place on Saturday, June 10, at 10 a.m. at Seattle City Hall, 600 4th Avenue. This group has emerged in a context where the sowing of fear, the rhetoric of hate, the acts of violence and the dehumanization of people considered “other” has spread in urban, suburban, and rural areas throughout the United States. Indeed, in 2015 the highest number of anti-Muslim hate crimes occurred since 2001. The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) reports a 57% increase in violence against and harassment of Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim across the United States in 2016. CAIR-Washington says that there were 252 reports of bias-based incidents toward Muslims. We recall that the now-President on June 14, 2016 announced that he had a plan “for a complete and total shutdown of Muslims coming into the United States.”
As noted previously, there are a variety of ways to register our support, love and solidarity for our Muslim neighbors on Saturday and in the coming days and weeks. Prayer, vigil, non-violent protest, advocacy, education, social messaging, etc. all are important to change the narrative of hate to one of unity in community, tolerance, understanding and honoring of our religious diversity, and embrace in compassion and justice of people and groups who are targeted and face discrimination.
To be clear, the “anti-Shariah” rally is an affront to and an attack on Muslims. The federally-protected notion of free speech allows for such gatherings even when language is offensive, provocative, scapegoating and deceitful. The rally purportedly will include denunciations of attempts to impose a form of Shariah law within our nation. Such a lie distorts the meaning of Shariah and perpetuates the false notion that Muslim teachings are incompatible with the underpinnings of our democracy and Constitution.
On the contrary, Shariah (meaning “root”) is faith-based guidance for life, principles consistent with what Catholics and other traditions have recognized as natural law, which in turn forms the underpinnings of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution. The five areas of life that this way of life upholds are: life, mind, religion, property and family. These are seen as foundational as they come from God. As Muslims according to polls have the greatest confidence of any social group in the United States government, so too do Muslims see their values reflected in the cherished, common good, commitment to “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.” Muslims see themselves and their prospects for their own thriving and citizenship in their deeply-rooted religious outlook and the parallels in our nation’s founding documents of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
A Fourteenth Century Muslim theologian said that Shariah in its entirety is “justice, mercy and wisdom.” Muslims believe in dignity, equality and liberty and justice for all no less than we do. Underlying attacks on Muslims is racism. People of color – including groups like Black Lives Matter – teach us that anti-racist work starts at home, and we can learn from these communities of color to defang the social construct of race that erodes away our common humanity.
Indeed, the words of the Holy Qu’ran as revealed to the Prophet Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him, can humanize us, teach us peace, and guide us to right relationship with the Creator, each other and planet Earth (for example): “Human beings were created for a noble purpose.” (2:30-31:6:165) “Respect all human life.” (5:32) “Work for social justice and equality.” (5:8) “And what will explain to you what the steep path is? It is the freeing of a (slave) from bondage; or the giving of food in a day of famine to an orphan relative, or to a needy in distress. Then will he be of those who believe, enjoin fortitude and encourage kindness and compassion.” (90:12-17) (Source: Ithna-Asheri Association of the Northwest)
These religious teachings speak to our universal values and are consistent with the best hopes and expressions of our nation’s aspirations.
Fear underlies the anti-Muslim sentiment that certain groups foster to spread hateful and/or dehumanizing messages . As the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America said nearly two years ago:
We Christians and all others of good will cannot let fear rule the day. Fear paralyzes, divides people, fosters distrust and clouds judgments. We also stand shoulder to shoulder with people of faith who are firmly opposed to vengeful reprisals and prejudice. In particular, we are concerned for and committed to standing with our Muslim neighbors who are facing threats and acts of discrimination and hate from those who conflate Islam with terrorism.
President George Washington himself wrote in 1790 to the Hebrew Congregations of Newport, Rhode Island: “May the children of the stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants; while everyone shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.” (Jon Meacham, American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation, p. 101). As our Muslim brothers and sisters are children of Abraham, this applies to them as well. Free exercise of religion, without imposition of one; sanctuary for those in fear who seek refuge; pursuing pathways of peace where all not just tolerate one another, but honor one another for the good will we bring to each other.
As people of faith we stand united, grounded in the conviction that our deepest religious values form and inform the shared framework for our nation’s present and future.