Standing on the Side of Love with American Muslims
Report by Kat Liu, UUA Witness Ministries Program Associate
On Thursday, March 10th, Representative Peter King (R-NY) used his authority as the Chair of the House subcommittee on Immigration and Enforcement to hold the first in a series of hearings investigating what he calls “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community.” Rather than investigate the radicalization of American groups in general, or even American religious groups in general, Rep. King chose to single out an already marginalized group for particular scrutiny. For those of us who value equality and freedom from religious and ethnic prejudice, the hearing was a stain on our national conscience.
However, even as some in our society seek to marginalize American Muslims within our communities, others have strongly resisted these efforts. Representatives Pete Stark (D-CA) and Dingell (D-MI) circulated a “Dear Colleague” letter objecting to the hearings that was signed by 57 Representatives. And on the same day as Rep. King’s hearing, a new interfaith coalition called “Shoulder to Shoulder” held a press conference announcing our alliance to stand in solidarity with Muslim Americans whom we recognize to be an integral part of the U.S.American tapestry. The UUA is a member of Shoulder to Shoulder, and it was my honor to represent the UUA during the day’s events.
“Shoulder to Shoulder” has organizational members from across the religious (and political) spectrum, from Jewish to Muslims to Christian to Unitarian Universalist. All four main branches of Judaism are represented as well as the full spectrum of Christianity, from Catholic to Mainline Protestant to Evangelical. Catholics and Jews in our coalition spoke on how they know what it’s like to be the target of religious discrimination, and all of us involved agreed that we would oppose any attempt to target people based on their faith (or lack thereof).
The day started off with a meeting with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who had spoken out against the hearing in a statement released the day before. Pelosi’s personal appearance, meeting with us for a full hour, speaks to her commitment to the issue. While we were there we looked up at the television screen to see Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), the the first Muslim American elected to Congress, break into tears as he testified at the hearing. Our hearts ached knowing that our government was causing him and other Muslim Americans such unjust pain.
Next on the agenda was our press conference, which had been timed to occur right after the end of the Peter King hearing. Much to our delight/relief, the room was packed as we issued our statement condemning the hearing.
Later in the afternoon we met with members of the Obama administration staff, who like Pelosi had also released a statement on the eve of the hearing. Lastly, at 5:30pm in the afternoon, we met with staff from Senate Minority Leader Senator Mitch McConnell’s office (R-KY).
It was a very full and emotional day but by far the most gratifying part was when an imam from our group said that his wife and daughters would be “less afraid tonight” as the result of what we did. To me, that’s what Standing on the Side of Love is all about – standing with people who are being targeted because of their identity and letting them know that they are not alone.
While Thursday’s events caused much pain, there is also reason to be hopeful. Please take a moment to thank the Representatives who stood on the side of love and against these hearings.