Last Fall, fear and bigotry came to center stage in our nation. Prominent voices calling for suspicion and prejudice against Muslims led to rallies and demonstrations across the country in which armed demonstrators gathered at mosques and Muslim community centers, seeking to intimidate and harass their Muslim neighbors.
In response, communities around the Bay Area came together not with arms, but with hands. Hands outstretched to Muslim brothers and sisters, hands reaching out to our neighbors of all races, of all religious traditions (and no religious tradition), of all ages, genders, and social conditions. Hands prepared to join together in building a more just and compassionate society.
Some 250 supporters gathered at the Islamic Society of the East Bay in Fremont on February 28 and heard messages of encouragement and support from speakers including Mayors of Fremont and Palo Alto, State Senator Bob Wieckowski, religious leaders from Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, and Jain communities, peacemakers and interfaith leaders from around the Bay Area. Holding hands in a circle around the courtyard of the mosque, the group affirmed their solidarity and connections to their Muslim neighbors. They then gathered around the Peace Pole that had previously been installed on the property shared by the mosque and a Methodist church for a candlelight vigil and commitment to standing together. Read about “Hands Around the Mosque” at The San Jose Mercury News.
In Byron, Concord, and Orinda, the Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County has been presenting a series of “Love Your Muslim Neighbor” panels, with conversation with local Muslims speaking about their faith and experiences. Additional gatherings are scheduled for Lafayette on March 8, Walnut Creek on March 13, and Rossmore on July 12. For details see their events calendar.
In the South Bay, the Chung Tai Zen Center in Sunnyvale held a Buddhist-Muslim dialogue, while the Pacifica Institute hosted a panel on “Combating the Cancer of Extremism.” Bishop William Swing of United Religions Initiative (URI) joined Andrew Kille of the Silicon Valley Interreligious Council and other local interfaith leaders for a panel on “Interfaith and Tackling Phobia.” The local Ahmadiyya Muslim community held an open conversation on Islam at a public library in San Jose. Week after week, Moina Shaiq of the Tri-Cities Interfaith Council has invited people in Fremont to ” Meet a Muslim” in coffee shops and community centers.
The January issue of The Interfaith Observer centered on “Understanding and Addressing Islamophobia,” noting the ways that people around the country have been responding to the language of prejudice and offering resources like the Islamophobia Guide developed by the Charter for Compassion. URI Cooperation Circles across the nation have likewise taken action.
URI North America has started a social media campaign using the hashtag #ThisIsWhoWeAre to elevate the positive stories of people all over the world living together in peace. You can view the photo essay on their website and support the campaign by adding the #ThisIsWhoWeAre hashtag to your own photos.