Every day the United States has an opportunity to move closer to the real ideals of the founders of this nation. Unfortunately, the esteemed documents that laid the foundation of this country lose meaning when actions and rhetoric form conditions for residents and citizens that deny our full humanity and value. Today, our nation faces the dangerous reality for Muslim members of our society who are falsely accused and denigrated by extremist groups that dare to ignore America’s true greatness found within our diverse population.
In recent days we have witnessed public acts of violence organized and motivated by fear that boils over and is fueled by hatred. I was very concerned to learn more rallies were planned to target Muslim Americans. I’m relieved to know far-right extremist group ACT for America has cancelled their rallies, but still worried about their decision to focus on online “protests” instead.
Determined to ignore the social and political progress our nation has made since its inception and the great strides gained through decades of the civil rights movement, anti-war movement, women’s rights movement, LGBTQ liberation movement, and freedom of religion guaranteed in our Constitution, a band of frightened, misguided individuals want to reverse America’s great attributes and reduce access to the blooming opportunities that offer hope to all her people.
Islam is a faith that lives within the Abrahamic family from Moses to Muhammad (PBUH). Between those patriarchs Jesus led a religious movement that sought to forge a peaceful world by honoring all human life as sacred. Thus, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam share the same roots and recognize the belief in one God who formed every human being in the Divine Image (Imago Dei).
Today, we are faced with a choice as a nation about which way we will go. Will we seek unity among our diversity and follow the wisdom embedded in our nation’s Constitution? Or, will we dive into the abyss of fear and blindly allow voices of hatred to lead us to the cliff of division and disaster?
Now is a time to build community through understanding and friendship. We have an opportunity to learn more about Islam by getting to know our Muslim neighbors. Like many Americans who came to this country, our Muslim neighbors bring visions of hope and dreams of new opportunities. They follow the footsteps of many great people who preceded them and courageously left their homelands in search of a better way of life.
Islam is deeply-rooted in “The Way of Peace.” Through knowledge of science, mathematics, medicine, and technology, many of our Muslim neighbors bring expertise to the emerging arena of modern industry. They represent the global reality of mass mobility and the transference of skills, talents, and human resources.
Instead of baiting and promoting ill-fated schemes that make false distinctions and isolate individuals and religious groups, we have the opportunity to deepen our understanding, overcome our fears, and broaden our values as a hospitable society that continues a long tradition of welcoming strangers, earning trust, and making America stronger.
Too many brave warriors have fallen and made the ultimate sacrifice to preserve a free and open society as a safe haven for the weary, frightened, and maligned persons who seek freedom. We honor their courage by avoiding the missteps, traps, and seduction of fear and hatred. Our country is great when we “love our neighbor as we love ourselves.”
We hold this conviction as the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity, “Every human person is sacred across all borders.”
Let’s all breathe a sigh of relief that ACT for America has cancelled their planned anti-Muslim rallies. But we can’t let up in our defense of the Constitution and American values either. We will face more marches, more candidates and more provocative media outlets that try to divide us and exploit fear. As we meet each moment and each awful tweet, let us rise with love, open hearts and minds, and let us become the people we believe Americans can be when we come together across our many diverse backgrounds.
Rev. Dr. Art Cribbs is the Executive Director of the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity and pastor of the Los Angeles Filipino American United Church of Christ.