This past Monday evening, a group from First Congregational Church, Bellevue joined with hundreds of others in a community vigil and teach-in at the Muslim Association of Puget Sound. Together we mourned the victims of the terrorism at the Christchurch mosques and prepared for action to respond to Islamophobia. The following reflection was written by Sarah Nassif:
“Neighbor is not a geographic term. It is a moral concept.” Days later, these words still echo through my mind. First issued by Rabbi Joachim Prinz at the 1963 March on Washington as a statement of solidarity with those facing persecution on the basis of race and cited by Rabbi David Basior at Monday night’s Muslim Community’s Interfaith Vigil as a statement of solidarity with those facing persecution at the intersection of religion, race, and ethnicity, they position the undertaking of ‘neighborliness’, not as a convenient given, but as an active choice.
In activist circles, we often reference our ‘chosen ancestors’ – our predecessors in thought and action whose work is foundational in the building of new movements. It is a choice to claim those who came before, to recognize that all who have, and will, dedicated themselves to broadening the reach of equality, equity, and justice exist in community with one another.
A similar inextricable tie binds together the Abrahamic religions – the teachings of each religion playing a foundational role for the next. When the global media insists on promoting a narrative of differences rather than similarities, it is easy to lose sight of the forest for the trees – to forget that, though we have differences, we are the products of a shared ancestry. Whether that shared ancestry exists is a matter of fact, but whether we choose to claim that ancestry is a choice, and one that must be actively made.
My upbringing in FCC Bellevue taught me that to “love thy neighbor” is to love anyone, and everyone, in need of a neighbor. My introduction to social justice movements taught me that those with the greatest need for neighbors are those in need of neighbors willinging to actively love “as thyself” because they are the people and communities whom others deliberately try to deny access to neighbors. It is because of these two fundamental contexts of neighborliness that I respond to acts of Islamophobia not with fear, but with allyship in the form of a renewed dedication to dismantling the systems that allow such dangerous beliefs to prosper.
A room of allies declaring “We Stand with Our Muslim Neighbors”, as we did Monday night, makes for beautiful moment, but it is just that – a moment. We can do more. We can choose to continue showing up for our neighbors in need. We can choose to use the power of our Christian privilege to hold up the validity and the humanity of those with which we share an ancestral bond. We can choose to declare that not only are we neighbors, but we are family.
Sarah Nassif, member of the Immigrant Welcoming Task Force
12 Ways You Can Combat Islamophobia
MAPS (The Muslim Association of Puget Sound) provided the following resources that are action steps to take to combat Islamophobia:
1. Name the problem: Islamophobia. And equate it to other forms of hate, such as xenophobia, racism, and anti-Semitism.
2. Learn about the Islamophobia Network: http://islamophobia.org/
3. Sign the Petition to Repeal the Muslim Ban:
4. Take Action with Your Representative to the Repeal the Muslim Ban:
5. Support the WA State Hate Crimes Bill:
6. Support the WA State Religious Accommodations Bill
7. Demand Public Schools Respect All Religions:
8. Sign the Petition to Change Violent, Islamophobic City Names:
9. Donate to the Victims in New Zealand:
10. Use your social media and other platforms, along with letters to the editor/op-eds, to share personal, humanizing stories about the Muslims you know, and contact media when they use Islamophobic imagery, narratives, or double standards.
11. Attend the many upcoming events to get to know your Muslim neighbors:
12. Follow any of the Muslim community groups sponsoring tonight’s program on social media or through their newsletters to hear about more opportunities to learn, engage, and serve together.