Anti-Muslim Protests Planned Across America

27 05 2017

On June 10, 2017, in 22 major cities in America (Yes, you, Houston! Seattle! St. Paul! Kansas City! Raleigh! Orlando! etc.) a group called ACT! for America is planning anti-Muslim “March Against Sharia” protests. This conservative group expresses their prejudice against Muslims with the typical fear-mongering outlandish claims about an Islamic conspiracy to take over America; that “tens of thousands of Islamic militants now reside in America operating in sleeper cells, attending our colleges and universities, even infiltrating our government” and asserting that radicalized Muslims “have infiltrated us at the CIA, at the FBI, at the Pentagon, at the State Department.”

The website for one Florida branch of ACT! for America even makes this highly offensive claim: “It is not ‘fanatical’, ‘radical’, or ‘extreme’ Islam that we are fighting, but normal, orthodox, canonical, typical, accepted, traditional Islam.” This is pure prejudicial hate-speech against all the upstanding Muslim-American citizens around us who ACT! wants to deny their freedom of religion.

This group’s solution is to ban ALL Muslims from entering America, and to pass Anti-Sharia laws in every state before it’s too late and America falls to Global Islamization.

[Interestingly, my award-winning book A VIOLENT LIGHT introduces a similar group with a similar name (“Act Now to Save America”) though I hadn’t known at the time that ACT! for America existed.]

What can we do to show our support for our Muslim neighbors? Here are some ideas from my contact at the group Shoulder to Shoulder:

  • Rather than planning counter-protests or vigils or anything like that (which could add fuel to ACT’s desire to gain media attention), it might be more fruitful to use the fact that it’s Ramadan to encourage interfaith Iftars [fast-breaking meals] on the nights of June 9 and 10 in particular, and we could help pitch these to local and national media as the “counter-protests”, in that they are ignoring the fearmongering that ACT is doing and instead, getting together with neighbors to celebrate a beautiful time for the Muslim religious calendar.  Of course, just encouraging interfaith partners to connect with their Muslim contacts in these cities to find out what they are doing/thinking is the first step.
  • Muslim Advocates is working on a letter that could be sent to mayors, police chiefs, etc., to alert them of the anti-Muslim marches and to make sure they understand that these are hate groups leading them.  We could encourage faith leaders at local levels to be part of the group that sends/delivers those letters, showing community leaders that a broad segment of their constituents (not just Muslims!) are concerned about this.
  • ReThink Media is willing to help us with drafting and pitching op-eds from local clergy in some select cities.  I will do some outreach to clergy on our rapid response list, but if you have people you’d like to recommend to me in any of the cities displayed on this map (where protests are planned), please let me know.  We’d want the op-eds to run the weekend of the protests, not before, so that we don’t give them extra publicity.

Is your city on the map? If so, and if you’re interested in doing something in your city, perhaps Shoulder to Shoulder or I can link you with others who are also committed to religious freedom and loving your neighbor.

Is your city not on the map? Then I recommend you begin now to make friends with the Muslims in your school, workplace, neighborhood, park, and city. Don’t let the nightly news convince you that all Muslims are out to kill you. They’re not. Get to know a Muslim and find out the truth for yourself.

If you are a Christian and with the goal of self-preservation want to close your nation, your city and your heart to Muslims, I suggest that your fear is too great and your God is too small. Ask God to enlarge the capacity of your heart to love–whether you consider Muslims your neighbors or your enemies–Jesus offers no second option for those who follow him.

And please pass this on to other groups or churches in your city. Letting our Muslim neighbors know they’re cared for as an important part of our multi-cultural America is the best way to keep them from being radicalized by angry, disenfranchised extremists.

 





Fighting God’s Enemies

6 03 2017

  Religion can bring out the best or the worst in mankind. It brings out the best, for example, when we follow the Great Commandment to love God with all our hearts and to love our neighbor as ourselves; or as similarly commanded in Islam, habluminallah, habluminannas.

Religion brings out the worst in mankind when we decide that we need to fight those people that we believe are God’s enemies—as though God is incapable of dealing with them Himself!

By bombing an abortion clinic, vandalizing a mosque, gunning down people in a gay night club, or honor-killing a family member who chooses to change her religion, we have left the most basic teachings of our faith in order to “help” God bring judgment against those we disapprove of.

In spite of all our efforts at peacemaking, such tragedies still happen—such as the kidnapping of Pastor Raymond Koh in Malaysia.

On February 13, in broad daylight, three black SUVs forced Mr. Koh’s white sedan to the side of the road and masked men abducted him, while five other vehicles operated by masked men kept traffic away from the kidnapping. But while the police were slow to respond,  CCTV footage from a nearby building appeared on social media recording the entire event.

The Koh family offered a reward for any information about Raymond, but for the last three weeks there has been only silence—no ransom demands or news of any kind. The Koh family is not rich enough for this abduction to be financially motivated. The only logical conclusion is that it was religiously motivated.

This is not how the Prophet Muhammad treated Christian pastors! By referring to the Ashtiname of Muhammad, or the Charter of Medina (and its modern parallel The Marrakesh Declaration), it’s clear that Muslims were commanded by their Prophet to not only establish religious freedom for minorities, but even to protect them.

A survey of how Jesus treated those of other religions leads us to a similar path of peace. When dealing with non-Jews such as Romans, Syrians, Canaanites and Samaritans, this is what Jesus DID: healed, delivered, told them to share their miracle stories, revealed himself as Messiah and King, praised them for their faith, praised them for exhibiting the righteousness God wants, and announced they’d feast in heaven with the earlier prophets. This is what Jesus DIDN’T do: follow his own culture’s prejudicial norms, condemn, rebuke, warn of judgment or hell, argue theology or debate, quote the Scriptures, explain the Gospel unless they asked, or ask them to change anything. He certainly didn’t condone any violence against them, teaching his followers by his own self-sacrifice to overcome evil with good.

The greatest barrier to peace today is not any particular religion—it is misguided religious followers that pursue hatred and violence in the name of God. [This is what my novel A VIOLENT LIGHT is all about!]

Please pray with me for the speedy release of Pastor Raymond Koh, and for his captors to return to the most basic tenets of their faith—habluminallah, habluminannas.





Muslims Crack Me Up

5 12 2016
from historiccity.com

from historiccity.com

Recently I wrote about how Muslim Americans may be more afraid of you than you are of them! (See my post 1001 More Ways to Die in America.) With all the prejudice Muslims face, sometimes even the threat of personal violence, how can they best respond?

If American Muslims chose to hide, or to be offended and angry, I think it would be totally understandable. But even though the stereotype of Muslims is that they’re overly serious, many of them choose to face difficulty with a wonderful sense of humor. In fact, there are some terrific Muslim-American comedians I’d like to introduce you to.

On December 1st Arab-American comedian Mo Amer was seated on a plane to Scotland next to none other than Eric Trump. He was thrilled. “Sometimes God just sends you the material,” he tweeted.

Being a Muslim-American is tough these days, whether you’re trying to get through TSA at the airport or just trying to fit in at your job or in your neighborhood. For Mo Amer, it’s learning how to get along with the gun-carrying cowboys of Texas.

He tells about growing up in Houston and being put in ESL class where he learned Spanish—which came in handy. When kids picked on him for being a Muslim or an Arab, he pretended he was a Mexican instead. But it hasn’t helped his 20-year quest to receive his citizenship. He’s pretty sure his first name being “Mohammed” has something to do with the delays. But what can he do except laugh? Catch his comedy here.

American comedian Ahmed Ahmed feels like racism and religious conflicts “are not going away,” but that laughter is one common meeting point for us all. Once Ahmed took 10 American comedians on a comedy tour of the Middle East called “Just Like Us.” The resulting documentary earned him an invitation to the White House. Explore his comedy here.

Maysoon Zayid, perhaps the first Muslim woman standup comedian in America, co-founded the New York Arab-American Comedy Festival in 2003, with the goal of changing the negative image of Arab-Americans in media. She also speaks out for the handicapped. Maysoon has cerebral palsy. But she says that’s only one of her many problems: “I’m Palestinian, Muslim, female, disabled…and I live in New Jersey.” “The world is broken,” Maysoon admits, “but I believe we can fix it.” Check out her comedy here.

“People say stupid things to me all the time,” says American comedian Azhar Usman, a large Arab-looking man with a full beard. He tells about waiting at a stop light when a car full of young white men pulls up and they start taunting him. “What’s up, Osama!” the driver yells. Before he can respond, another guy calls out, “Yeah, what’s going on, Gandhi!”

Azhar was confused—how could he be Osama and Gandhi at the same time? “What is this—terror through non-violence? I will kill you—by not eating?”

But in spite of the racism and xenophobia Azhar experiences, he chooses to see hope. “We are actually witnessing this country undergo a transformation in front of our eyes, it’s amazing,” he claims. If you want to know why, try his comedy here.

When these comedians share their true horror stories but choose to laugh, the audience is drawn into a new empathy for what Muslim-Americans have to go through. Their human qualities shine through, and the audience realizes that though we face different types of difficulties in life than Muslim-Americans do, as Ahmed Ahmed says, they’re “just like us.”

DISCLAIMER: This is not an endorsement of any comedian’s opinions or their use of coarse language. This is simply a recognition of their efforts to build bridges through laughter.





1001 MORE Ways to Die in America (part 2)

10 11 2016
huffingtonpost.com

photo from huffingtonpost.com

Recently I addressed the fear that many Americans face that Muslim jihadists may infiltrate our nation posing as refugees and conduct terrorist attacks against us. I argued that although this is possible, living in fear of such an event makes no more sense than living in fear of lightning strikes or of dying from falling out of bed—both of which caused more deaths in America last year than Muslim terrorists did.

But have you ever paused to wonder how your fellow American citizens feel, who happen to be Muslims? Do you think they might also struggle with fear that anti-Muslim vigilantes in America might attack them?

The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism reported an estimated 260 violent attacks against Muslims in America during 2015, the highest total since the months immediately following 9/11. They hypothesized that anti-Muslim political rhetoric was the primary cause in the increase.

CNN writer Daniel Burke summarizes the vicious variety in these attacks in his article, ”The Secret Costs of Islamophobia.” (http://edition.cnn.com/2016/09/23/us/islamerica-secret-costs-islamophobia/index.html)

   Muslims have been shot and killed, execution-style, in their living rooms and outside of their mosques. They have been fatally stabbed on their way home. They have been beaten in their stores, in their schools and on the streets. They have been kicked off airplanesegged outside Walmartscorched with hot coffee in a park, shot in cabs and punched while pushing their children in strollers. Their clothes have been set on fire and their children have been bullied. Men have come to their door and told them that they would burn down their house if they did not move away. They have been fired for wearing hijabs and for praying. They have seen their cemeteries vandalized and their Quran desecrated. A Muslim congressman has received death threats, and business owners have posted signs advertising “Muslim-free zones.

   Heavily armed men have protested outside mosques in Texas and Arizona, arguing that it’s their patriotic duty to protect the country from Islam.

   People have covered the doors of a mosque with feces and torn pages of the Quran, left a severed pig’s head outside a mosque, firebombed mosques, urinated on mosques, spray-painted the Star of David and satanic symbols on mosques, carved swastikas and crude drawings of penises into signs at mosques, set fire to mosques, threatened to blow up mosques and kill “you Muslim f****,” fired rounds from high-powered rifles into mosques, wrapped bacon around the door handles of mosques, left hoax bombs and fake grenades at mosques, threatened to decapitate congregants at mosques, sent suspicious substances to mosques, written notes saying, “We hate you,” “We will burn all of you” and “Leave our country” to mosques, rammed a tractor-trailer into a mosque, thrown bricks and stones through the windows of mosques, pelted Muslims with rocks as they left mosques and stood outside mosques shouting, “How many of you Muslims are terrorists?”

This type of behavior breaks my heart! Does it break yours? Every one of those events happened to real people—nurturing fathers, gentle mothers, children wide-eyed with innocence—people just like you and me.

If you think you have something to be afraid of because one Muslim family moved into your neighborhood, how do you think they feel, surrounded by non-Muslims, with no idea who might be a violent, gun-carrying Muslim-hater that might attack them while they’re pushing their baby in a stroller down the sidewalk?

Fear goes both ways. And in 99.999% of the cases, that fear of the unknown can be shattered by walking up and introducing yourself, getting to know your neighbor, and starting a friendship. Every Muslim American needs non-Muslim friends to feel safe. And every Muslim you reach out to in love means one less fear you’ll have to worry about on your checklist.

I challenge you—the next Muslim you see, determine in your heart to approach him or her with a smile and introduce yourself. Ask about their family, work and dreams. Then write me and tell me what happened.

And try to do this before Christmas comes and finds you singing, “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me…”





The Battle for our Children

26 08 2016

021 (2)A lovely young woman (we’ll call her “Star”) wearing a head covering came into our office recently to apply for the position of Peace Generation Coordinator that we had advertised. She already had a master’s degree and seemed to be from a family of some wealth, so I was surprised to hear how she spent her free time.

Star is a member of a social-change-focused group called “the Gus Durians” after Indonesia’s former president Gus Dur. As a bit of background, Gus Dur once was probably the most famous Muslim cleric in the nation, and a constant voice for righteousness against a corrupt and abusive government, when an ugly dispute between various parties in the parliament resulted in his name being put forward as a “neutral” choice for president. He wasn’t really equipped to be a politician, and after calling the squabbling legislators “a bunch of kindergartners” he was impeached.

However, Gus Dur is not remembered for that brief political implosion, but for his years of championing human rights and especially minority rights. For example, every year he took flak from his Muslim colleagues for attending Christmas services at a Christian church, in solidarity with this religious minority.

The Gus Durians have carried on his legacy after his death. Star and her small group have actively sought out every minority group they could find in our city to ascertain their needs and offer help and support in whatever way they could. They approached Christians, Buddhists, Ahmadiyah (a Muslim fringe group often persecuted as a “cult”), Communists, LGBT (homosexual activity is illegal in Indonesia), street kids, etc.

It’s the street kids’ story that I want to write about. My wife works with street kids, elementary school dropouts, beggars, trash-pickers, and other poor kids. On the recent Idul Fitri holiday, she served lunch to 80 of them in our home! But there are others working with street kids too.

Star discovered a half-way house for street kids in the high-crime district of our city. She and her friend sat with the leader to ask about his ministry. Then he began asking about their group, and when she mentioned searching for the LGBT community, he edged forward intensely, pressing them about where the homosexuals gather. At first they were taken aback and evaded his questions. As they probed deeper, they uncovered that this leader of the street kids’ ministry was also a member of FPI, the “Islamic Defenders Front,” that had attacked churches, burned down Ahmadiyah mosques, forcibly closed night clubs, and wanted to destroy the LGBT community as well! They felt fortunate they hadn’t given out any more information and got out of there as fast as they could!

All this to say…the battle between peacemaking and terrorism begins with our children. Our Peace Generation curriculum has already taught thousands of kids the values of peace, but we’re not the only voice in our city. Others are teaching the values of prejudice, hate and violence.

It’s too late if we wait until they grow up and join ISIS, then put a bounty on their heads and kill them. We need to act NOW to raise the children of our world to know that God loves them, and that He wants us to love all the other children of the world too. We must do all we can to raise a young generation—Christian, Muslim and other—with a new set of values of peace.





The Right Response to Paris

22 11 2015
photo from usatoday.com

                        photo from usatoday.com

It’s been an interesting couple weeks, with Islam dominating the news. The horrific attacks in Paris stirred up a tremendous amount of sympathy, fear, and not always constructive reactions around the world. France’s president promised a “ruthless” response, and subsequent raids across France and bombings in the Middle East were evidence of his sincerity.

Meanwhile, many cities and nations questioned the wisdom of welcoming Muslim refugees inside their borders, turning them away to go…where exactly??

An altogether different response arrived in my email inbox this week—an Islamophobic letter warning me that “We Now Have a Muslim Government,” citing erroneously that leaders such as John Brennan, head of the CIA, and presidential advisor Valerie Jarrett were Muslims. The letter also falsely claimed President Obama is a “closet Muslim” and sounded this gloomy assessment of our future:

Obama and his minions are systematically destroying our nation, supporting radical Muslim groups worldwide, opening our southern border, and turning a blind eye to the genocide being perpetrated on Christians all over Africa and the Middle East. The more damage Obama does, the more arrogant he’s become! Our nation and our government has been infiltrated by people who want to destroy us.

These wild accusations of a conspiracy theorist couldn’t be farther from the truth. If you receive any similar bogus emails, please tell the sender to check his facts and instead of spreading fear, try becoming part of the solution.

So…the world’s responses are ruthless revenge, heartless rejection, or delusional fear. Surely there is a better option for us?

Lately I’ve been working on editing my manuscript for the sequel to my first novel, SOMEONE HAS TO DIE, hopefully to be published in summer 2016. In my new book, I’ll address the issue of ISIS and what a more godly, effective, transformational response could look like.

But while you wait for your summer reading, a group of leading Muslims around the world have got a jump on me by authoring an open letter to the self-appointed “Caliph” or leader of ISIS, Al Baghdadi. This 28-page letter presents beautifully how far from orthodox Islam ISIS has strayed. I especially recommend you check out the page explaining jihad and the page on the treatment of Christians (“People of the Book”) if you want to discover how the leading Muslims of our world truly feel about these issues. You can read the letter and who signed it here: http://www.lettertobaghdadi.com/

The tragic loss of life in Paris should produce a righteous anger in our hearts. However, neither ruthless revenge nor finger-pointing fear will solve the problem or bring healing to our world. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Islam is not our enemy. Hatred, prejudice, violence and fear are our enemies.

And since these are common enemies to all mankind, let us join together as humans to overcome those evils with good.





#LoveYourNeighbor

8 10 2015
A demonstrator holds a sign at a "Freedom of Speech Rally Round II" across the street from the Islamic Community Center in Phoenix, Arizona May 29, 2015.  Arizona police stepped up security near a mosque on Friday ahead of a planned anti-Islam demonstration featuring displays of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad, weeks after a similar contest in Texas came under attack from two gunmen.  REUTERS/Nancy Wiechec

A demonstrator holds a sign at a “Freedom of Speech Rally Round II” across the street from the Islamic Community Center in Phoenix, Arizona May 29, 2015. Arizona police stepped up security near a mosque on Friday ahead of a planned anti-Islam demonstration featuring displays of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad, weeks after a similar contest in Texas came under attack from two gunmen. REUTERS/Nancy Wiechec

In my last blog I let you know about the anti-Muslim protests planned for this weekend. In this update, I want to share with you what just one person is doing about it.

Catherine Orsborn is from Shoulder to Shoulder, a Peace Catalyst-related organization. Here’s a letter explaining how she is rallying people to respond:

Hi, all,

Thank you so much for all of you who have made connections with your local clergy in the lead-up to this weekend’s hate rallies targeting Muslims.  We’re sending the below email out to the Shoulder to Shoulder community lists tonight to mobilize a mass social media move against the hate rallies this weekend.  It’s been complicated trying to organize local communities on this because most of the Islamic Centers we have connected with do not want any extra media attention brought to these protests, and therefore are asking us to refrain from counter-events- we got coverage in the Huffington Post on this point.  However, we need to be out in public showing our opposition to this hate, so have been working with some other national groups on social media strategy.  It’s included in the note below.

Our asks for you: Will you 1) use your denominational or organizational owned social media to participate in this social media campaign starting this Friday at 3 pm (not before, please, to concentrate the timing with our national partners!), 2) send this note out to your communities as you’re able, and 3) have your head of denomination or other high profile clergy participate in a tweet, and send it to us (@S2SCampaign or Catherine.Orsborn@s2scampaign.org) so we can highlight many religious leaders speaking out at this critical time.

Thank you!

In solidarity,

Catherine

This weekend:  #LoveYourNeighbor #HateUnchecked

Many of you have heard by now that there are a number of anti-Muslim events planned to take place around the country on October 10 (this Saturday).  Our partners at the Center for New Community are tracking these on this site and have an interactive map where you can see the locations, with links to the Facebook pages, for the events.  These are demonstrations of hate that go against the values of our religious traditions to love and extend hospitality to our neighbors, and against the highest ideals of our nation.

We know that there are Shoulder to Shoulder partners, along with concerned clergy, communities and individuals, around the country who have been actively fighting against anti-Muslim bigotry in their communities and building long-term relationships with their Muslim neighbors for a long time.  Public demonstrations of hate targeting the Muslim community are the reason Shoulder to Shoulder exists as a network of religious and interfaith individuals and groups.  This is a time when the Muslim community needs to hear and see our support.  Our national leaders are speaking out against this, as are many local clergy.

If you have not already, we encourage you to check on this map to see if there’s an event planned near you, and reach out to your Muslim friends and neighbors, and to interfaith networks that are in conversation with the local Muslim community.  Offer to help or to stand with them in solidarity, and ask them what they would like their friends from other religious communities to be doing right now to show support for American Muslims.

Many local Muslim groups have asked that people not turn out in large groups to the protests in order to avoid giving these groups more media attention than they have already gotten.  Other local groups may want interfaith allies to show their support through turning out people to surround the Islamic Centers (or perhaps another Islamic Center nearby) in a ring of solidarity.  Regardless, our nation and the world needs to know that this type of anti-Muslim hate doesn’t go unchallenged by our faith communities.  Whether or not your local Islamic Center wants a physical display of support from their interfaith partners this weekend, and even if you live in a location with no protests, we are encouraging everyone to participate in a social media pushback against this hate.

Join us starting this Friday at 3 pm EST (please wait until then to maximize social media takeover potential) on Twitter and Facebook to begin the nationwide social media pushback against these hateful acts.  We are using the hashtags #LoveYourNeighbor and #HateUnchecked, and we encourage you to post photos, videos or other sharable content with these.  Here’s a Facebook event page concentrated on the #HateUnchecked piece of this campaign, and as an inter-religious organization, we have added #LoveYourNeighbor.  Some ideas for social media engagement:

  • Post a photo that shows positive interactions between Muslims and non-Muslims in your community (from a dinner, a service project, or just hanging out), tagged with #LoveYourNeighbor #HateUnchecked
  • Post a quote from your religious tradition (scripture, a quote from a religious leader, etc) tagged with #LoveYourNeighbor #HateUnchecked
  • Post a video of yourself or with others stating what in your religious tradition drives you to stand against this hate, tagged with #LoveYourNeighbor #HateUnchecked
  • Post a photo of yourself (in clerical clothing, if that applies to you) – alone or with others in your community- holding the attached sign and tag with #LoveYourNeighbor #HateUnchecked
  • Some sample tweets:

o   Silence from the majority will destroy our country.  We can no longer sit back.  We must all raise our voices against #HateUnchecked.  #LoveYourNeighbor

o   My religious tradition teaches us to #LoveYourNeighbor.  We won’t sit silently when there is #HateUnchecked.

o   Our country is at its best when all communities are treated with equal dignity and respect #LoveYourNeighbor #HateUnchecked

o   “Do unto others” means religious freedom for all #LoveYourNeighbor #HateUnchecked

If you want to get together with others this weekend, you might consider hosting a public watch party of Unity Production Foundation’s new short film, “American Muslims: Facts vs Fiction” or one of their many other excellent productions on Islam, and hold a conversation about the issue of anti-Muslim bigotry in America.

There are many ways to engage and stand up with your Muslim neighbors this weekend.  Please tweet at us @S2SCampaign and let us know what your community does to come together in support of American Muslims this weekend!

In Solidarity,

Catherine

Personally, I love Catherine’s creative response! If you’d like to see another one, I’ll leave you with a link to a very different kind of response, but equally beautiful, that was successfully tried before (the photo beginning this article comes from this event):  http://tempe.redemptionaz.com/resources/blog-posts/detail/a-bright-night-for-the-church-a-recap-of-the-phoenix-mosque-protest/

Thank you for caring enough to take time to look at these links. Our country is not under attack by Islam. It is under attack by hate and prejudice. These can be found in people claiming any religious faith.

Is our love big enough to take this challenge? #LoveYourNeighbor