Recent bombastic statements by candidates in the Republican Presidential campaign and other political figures after the Paris attacks and the shootings in San Bernardino seem to be trying to outdo each other in fomenting suspicion and hostility not only against Syrian refugees fleeing from death and destruction in their own lands, but against Muslim citizens here in the US. Donald Trump in particular, with his proposal to prohibit Muslims from entering the United States and raising the possibility of interning Muslim citizens already here, provoked a strong response from interfaith groups around the Bay Area. Standing in solidarity with their Muslim friends and neighbors, they joined in denouncing the explosive rhetoric of singling out any group on the basis of their religion.
In San Francisco, a coalition of religious and civic leaders declared “Current attempts to isolate and demonize our Muslim sisters and brothers violate our common beliefs, indeed our American ideals, and cannot and must not be allowed to prevail.” Among those signing the statement were the San Francisco Interfaith Council, the Archbishop of San Francisco, the President of the University of San Francisco, the Episcopal Bishop of California, and representatives of Brahma Kumaris, Lutherans, Muslims, Greek Orthodox, Baptists, Jews, Baha’is, Mormons and Hindus. San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee said, “San Francisco is a leader in welcoming all, and we will never tolerate the marginalization or discrimination of any person or group.”
In the South Bay, at a gathering of scores of local residents Wednesday evening at the Muslim Community Center in Santa Clara to show support for the families of the victims of the San Bernardino shootings, the Muslim Community condemned the attackers, reminding all that such actions are profoundly opposed by the teachings of Islam. At that gathering, a statement from the Silicon Valley Interreligious Council was read, which said in part, “Here in Silicon Valley we know that what makes for a great America is not division, suspicion, fear or demonizing of others. We are great because we stand together—people of diverse cultures, languages, traditions, and religions who work together to make the world better for all of us. Together we seek to build a more just and compassionate society.”
Further south, the Faith Leaders of Morgan Hill and Gilroy together noted that “[w]e are blessed to live in an area that is cohesive and respectful of our diversity. Just as we are united in faith, mutual respect, and friendship, we are also united against hate. Any words of bigotry, racial or religious intolerance, prejudice and narrow-mindedness brings shame to us and our community. ” They called on their people to add their voices to “speaking out for justice, and welcoming immigrants and refugees who come to our shores. “
In the East Bay, the Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County decried the [m]isinformation, inflammatory rhetoric, false and half statements about Muslims and Islam” that continues to “feed the fears of many to think and act against their better nature.” “Our immediate concern,” it went on to say, “is the well-being and safety of our Muslims brothers and sisters whose lives and rights are being threatened” should such fevered rhetoric not be “condemned in the name of what is civil, humane, dignified, and responsible.”
Many of these groups are also Cooperating Circles of the United Religions Initiative, a world-wide, grassroots movement that works “to promote enduring, daily interfaith cooperation, to end religiously motivated violence and to create cultures of peace, justice and healing for the Earth and all living beings.” On the URI website, there is a blog of ongoing activities that URI Circles are taking to support Muslim communities in their own areas.