Seeing this cooperative work leaves me with a deep sense of awe for how humanity can come together. Local communities worked together even before any national or international aid agencies set up shelters. They created plans and networks, and even used Twitter to rescue strangers stranded on roofs. While my heart breaks for the lives lost and interrupted, I see all the ways God is knitting us together through these local responses.
But also, right now, ACT for America, a major anti-Muslim hate group, is meeting in Washington, D.C. Groups like ACT for America aim to marginalize and block whole groups of people from our nation’s religious and community fabric. Both ACT for America and the founder, Brigitte Gabriel, have a long history of promoting policies at the federal and state levels that are intended to manufacture fear of Muslims and promote the false idea of Muslims as a threat to the United States.
The attack happened early on Sunday near the All Dulles Area Muslim Society mosque — the largest mosque in the northern Virginia area with 10 days left in the holy month of Ramadan. The victim, identified by the mosque and relatives as Nabra Hassanen, and several friends were walking outside the mosque when they got into a dispute with a motorist in the community of Sterling, the Fairfax County Police Department said in a statement.
At a time of growing assaults and intimidation of Muslim Americans, the Islamic Networks Group has partnered with 70 interfaith organizations to launch a “Know Your Neighbor” campaign. The effort is intended to encourage individuals and groups to encounter people of faith different from their own.
I barely slept the night of the stabbing. It was a hot night, and I could hear the train tracks through our open windows. The last time I slept (or didn’t sleep) like that was election night. It was freezing, the windows closed, but the same nauseating dread kept my head buzzing, my jaw locked, my eyes open. Except that on election night it was the fear of the world I would wake up to that kept me awake. Now we know exactly what that world looks like.
The settlement, announced by the Justice Department on May 30, was reached after the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge sued Bernards Township, about an hour’s drive west of New York City. The township, which held 39 hearings on the planned mosque — hearings which subjected mosque members to anti-Muslim tirades — had refused to issue buildings permits.
For the first time, a majority of Americans has voiced concern about violence against Jews, polling by the Anti-Defamation League shows.
While 52 percent of Americans surveyed said they are disturbed about such violence, an even higher percentage — 76 percent — said they are concerned about violence against Muslims.
With his anti-Muslim rhetoric and planned travel bans, you’d think President Trump would be a favorite target for Islamic State’s propaganda. The jihadist caliphate in Syria and Iraq must be pulling out all the stops to slam him as the epitome of Islamophobia.
Well, think again. The extremist group that Trump vows to “totally obliterate” has hardly printed or broadcast a word about him since before the November election. The caliphate’s Ministry of Media acts almost as if he didn’t exist.
President Trump, long-chided for failing to address a surge in hate crimes, began his first address to Congress by invoking Black History Month, and condemning recent threats against Jewish institutions and the shooting of Indian men in Kansas City.
The condemnation came too little, too late, Jewish groups said.
On Feb. 21, President Trump condemned anti-Semitism, as Jewish leaders had been asking him to do for months.
“The President’s sudden acknowledgement is a Band-Aid on the cancer of Anti-Semitism that has infected his own Administration,” said Steven Goldstein, executive director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, in a statement on Feb. 21 after Trump called anti-Semitism “horrible.”
Sessions has long been, in the words of one prominent immigration advocate, the “most anti-immigrant senator in the chamber.” When George W. Bush, a self-styled “compassionate conservative” and born-again Christian, pushed a comprehensive immigration reform bill in 2007 that was supported by many business and law-enforcement officials, Sessions railed against what he called the “no illegal alien left behind bill” and led the charge against the failed effort. “Good fences make good neighbors,” he said at a press conference the year before.
President-elect Donald Trump will spend much of the time until his inauguration on Jan. 20 composing his new administration. That means naming Cabinet appointees, and government department or agency heads, as well as selecting advisers.
Many of Trump’s appointments so far are people of faith; some are supported or opposed by different faith groups; others have made public statements, or taken actions, regarding different faith groups.
Here is a list of Trump’s picks to date and a description of their relationship to religion.
This week's Wrap was guest curated by Sojourners contributor Adam Ericksen. Read along for his top stories and notes from the week!
There was a lot of negativity in the news this week, but mercy also filled the airwaves. In case you missed it, here’s a list of some merciful events from the week:
Sure, we have some differences, but we’re still crushing on the Pope. “To pass through the holy door means to rediscover the infinite mercy of the Father who welcomes everyone and goes out personally to encounter each of them.”
This weekend, demonstrators assembled outside several mosques across the country, some decrying “No Sharia law” and “Stop Islamic immigration” and others openly carrying weapons. Dubbed the “Global Rally for Humanity,” dozens of these anti-Muslim rallies were originally planned on social media, but fortunately, only a few materialized.
Hopefully, America won’t have to see another round of protests like the ones that were anticipated this weekend. But if anti-Muslim activities do pop up again, here’s what Christian communities should do.
“IT ALL STARTED with pig races,” said Dawud, the groundskeeper at the Muslim American Society’s mosque in Katy, Texas. Soon after the group purchased the land, their neighbor, Craig Baker, began hosting well-publicized hog heats for some 300 spectators every Friday evening. Baker’s timing was deliberate, chosen to correspond precisely with the jummah prayers—the holiest time of the week for Muslims—and to offend their dietary restrictions, which forbid pork.
That was back in 2006. Today, things are more peaceful. Follow the narrow road that curves amid loblolly pines and sage grass, and you’ll see sun gleaming off the black roof of the now-finished mosque. “It was a matter of disagreement, but it’s over now,” said Dawud last fall. “I am happy it’s done and we are at peace.”
But while the pig races have ended, signs of hostility linger: Two blue and white billboards bearing a Christian cross and a Star of David are posted just off the edge of the mosque’s property. The intended message isn’t subtle: “Muslims, you don’t belong here.”
Though many Americans actually had favorable views of Islam after 9/11, a recent study by Georgetown University’s Bridge Initiative found that those views became increasingly negative throughout the Iraq war.
If Christians are going to take seriously Jesus’ command to follow him, then we need to stop this absurd defense of drawing pictures of Muhammad. And if we defend the practice of ridiculing our fellow human beings by hiding behind the freedom of speech, then we have made freedom of speech into an idol.
Pamela Geller, as a non-Christian, has the right to host the conference. But Christians do not have the right, or the freedom, to support the conference. For Christians, freedom comes from following Christ in loving God and our neighbors as we love ourselves. The obvious implications of Jesus’ command to love our neighbors means that we should not mock them.
Civil rights and religious groups say efforts to rid federal agencies of anti-Muslim bias have faltered and prejudice against Muslims persists, particularly in the training of anti-terrorism officers.
On Thursday, 75 groups—including the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Auburn Seminary, and the NAACP—sent a letter to the White House urging an audit of federal law enforcement training material.
“The use of anti-Muslim trainers and materials is not only highly offensive, disparaging the faith of millions of Americans, but leads to biased policing that targets individuals and communities based on religion, not evidence of wrongdoing,” the letter reads.
A National Security Council representative said the letter will be reviewed and a response issued.
“As we said when these news reports first came to light, the use of racial or ethnic stereotypes, slurs or other similar language by employees is both unacceptable and inconsistent with the country’s core values,” said Caitlin Hayden, National Security Council spokeswoman.
The groups point to a reference to “Mohammed Raghead” in a memo and the claim by a former FBI official that the CIA’s director is a “closet Muslim.”
For years, opponents of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro vowed to take their legal fight to shut down the mosque all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
That fight ended Monday, when the nation’s highest court declined to hear their case.
The four-year conflict over construction of the mosque, which opened in 2012, brought national attention to this Bible Belt city of 112,000 about 30 miles south of Nashville.
Hundreds marched in protest after Rutherford County officials approved plans for the mosque in 2010. Televangelist Pat Robertson labeled the Islamic center a “mega mosque” and claimed Muslims were taking over Murfreesboro. An arsonist set fire to construction equipment on the building site.
Mosque opponents eventually filed a suit against Rutherford County, seeking to block construction of the worship space.
An ad campaign on San Francisco buses is aimed at trying to change public perception of the word “jihad,” which the program’s founder says has been distorted by extremists — Muslim and anti-Muslim alike.
Ahmed Rehab, a 36-year-old political activist, started the campaign in Chicago in December and expanded it to 25 San Francisco buses at the start of the year.
Rehab, who heads the Chicago office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, says his MyJihad campaign, which defines jihad as a personal struggle in many areas of life, is aimed at reframing a debate over a word that has become synonymous in many quarters with armed struggle and terrorism.
He said the debate has been taken over “more or less by two extremes — Muslim extremists and anti-Muslim extremists.”
Most people, Christian or not, know the story of the Good Samaritan. In it, a man, who is presumably an Israelite, is mugged on the road between Jerusalem and Jericho. A priest passes by without stopping. So does a Levite. But then a Samaritan — someone who belongs to a radically different socioeconomic and cultural group than the Israelite — stops to help. This is Jesus’ vision for us as we answer the question, “Who is my neighbor?”
So it should shock us, surprise us, and sadden us, when we hear about tragedies like the shooting at the Sikh gurudwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. For the victims of such attacks — whether they are Sikh, Muslim, Hindu — are our neighbors too.