Day 22: We Stand on the Side of Love Together, Shoulder to Shoulder!
Today is Day 22 of the Thirty Days of Love. Today’s daily action is to learn more about Muslim communities in your area and about the Shoulder-to-Shoulder campaign. Click here for resources, family actions, and more! Click here to sign up for the daily Thirty Days of Love emails.
At the Shoulder to Shoulder Campaign, we talk a lot about effective responses to anti-Muslim sentiment. Expressions can be anything from bullying, to insults on the street, to desecration of sacred spaces, to legislative actions, to hate crimes…and the list goes on.
After a few years of listening to the experiences of faith communities across the country, it has become clear that responses to anti-Muslim sentiment are often only as strong as the existing relationships between the targeted community and those who wish to be supportive.
In other words, the most effective response starts way before the actual incident takes place.
That’s why today I’m asking that you stand on the side of love by reaching out from your congregation to a local Islamic Community Center or mosque. There are a number of reasons why building a relationship now is your best response to anti-Muslim sentiment:
Your relationship will be an example of what we are trying to achieve in the first place; communities and relationships that are safe and celebratory of people from many traditions and identities. By cultivating this kind of a relationship, you have the opportunity to know your neighbors as an authentic and dynamic faith community instead of a community defined by stereotypical and inaccurate tropes. This also allows you to tell positive stories about interfaith partnerships before anything happens, addressing misinformation that can lead to discriminatory incidents.
It means that your first call after a tragic incident is not one establishing your trustworthiness. Instead, you can simply respond with essential activities like listening to the experience and needs of those who were impacted. Acts of religious discrimination or racism are traumatic. You can learn about what trauma is, as well as some “do’s and ‘don’ts” for responding in these resources.
It means that responses are more likely to be helpful, not hurtful, because you better understand the context and community. Among the many impacts of discrimination are a denial of agency and dignity to those who are victimized. Responses, then, must prioritize placing leadership and/or support firmly in the hands of those who are targeted. When well-intentioned allies overlook responding to the stated needs of the group and instead respond to discrimination generally, it runs the risk of re-victimizing.
In other words, responses that do not follow the leadership of the community risk doing more harm than good. Responses taken in the context of a long-standing relationship make this less likely.
Today, I’m hoping that you will join me in the effort of responding to anti-Muslim sentiment by taking the first steps to introduce yourself to a neighboring Islamic Community Center, school, or mosque. Engage your youth, your leadership, yourself in these efforts. Some options for action include:
- send a greeting card (youth group to youth group, clergy to clergy)
- identify when Islamic holidays occur and plan to celebrate them with your neighbors by either accepting an invitation to a gathering or simply sending a holiday card
- learn about important anniversaries, like the anniversary of the opening of an Islamic center or school, that you can commemorate and celebrate with the community
- engage deeper by visiting each other’s sacred spaces or organizing a joint service effort
When reaching out, you might consider some of the successes that UUs have had in the past. In addition, be aware that Islamic centers often have a different leadership structure than other religious groups. If you are having a difficult time finding a clear contact for interfaith engagement, be flexible and stay in touch as you learn how the community you’re reaching out choses to do things.
Sometimes, Islamic centers can get a lot of requests for interfaith partnerships because there may only be one mosque in town to partner with. If this is the case, be willing to go through an established interfaith organization or to meet your Muslim neighbors where they have already chosen to engage on an issue of common concern.
Interreligious partners are essential to responding to anti-Muslim sentiment. I am encouraged by the fact that we don’t have to wait for discrimination to define our responses. Instead, we can build diverse communities that celebrate our respective traditions now, making our communities safer and more inclusive for the future.
Christina Warner currently serves as Campaign Director for Shoulder-to-Shoulder: Standing with American Muslims; Upholding American Values. In this capacity, Christina collaborates with 29 national members of Shoulder-to-Shoulder and numerous local, state and regional partners to implement multi-faith work to end anti-Muslim sentiment. She previously served three years with Mennonite Central Committee in India and then Washington, DC.
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