By Mar Cárdenas
My heart sunk when I heard my Muslim friend, Sarah, tell everyone at our potluck that Imam Taha had decided to close the Islamic Center on 9/11 out of fear that the mosque could be targeted on that day.
Sarah, a Muslim Latina who had been my contact on Facebook for quite some time, unbeknownst to me, are the rest of the wonderful UUs who attended the Wednesday potluck made the decision that we were going to be at the mosque and have a vigil to show the local Muslim community our support.
On Thursday the plan was put on hold. The imam had received some hate-filled calls. On Friday it was decided to go ahead with our plans. I had 24 hours to get as many UUs there as possible!
I set up the event on Facebook, invited every UU in my network and sent an invitation to the UUSB listserve. In the meantime Sarah and her team got busy planning a meal for us to show their gratitude. The mosque was not closed on that day after all!
Almost 30 UUs came! Most of them wearing our cheerfully yellow SSL shirts. The women wore headscarves to show the respect we felt for our new friends’ faith. The interaction was wonderful. We were invited to partake in the evening prayer session during which Imam Taha spoke gratitude-filled words about our group. We laughed and played and sang silly chants together.
When Sarah came to our Chula Vista campus to speak last Sunday, she told us how everyone in her group was in tears after we left. Now we were ALL in tears too! =)
For that one day we were all Muslims, we were all human beings holding each other close in times of adversity! Blessed be all our Muslim friends!More >
Over the past few days, so many of you have heeded the call to speak out for religious freedom. Around the anniversary of the Sept. 11th attacks, intolerance has been pervasive in the national dialogue, and many Muslims in this country have been made to feel unwelcome because of who they are.
In response, you stepped up in a big way. Across the country, you organized worship services, solidarity actions, and public witness events in order to stand with Muslim Americans and against religious oppression.
Because of your willingness to speak out, many who have suffered from the climate of harassment and persecution have not been forced to stand alone. Thank you.
Now, at a time when voices of love and freedom are desperately needed, Standing on the Side of Love is asking for your help to continue our efforts.
It is through your help that we are able to organize across the country, work toward a culture of inclusion, and share the stories of the thousands of you who are taking action in your own communities. Here are just a few examples of those of you who stood on the side of love this last weekend:
- Rev. Carie J. Johnsen, of the UU Community Church of Augusta in Maine, wrote in the Kennebec Journal: “We can best honor the lives lost and the lives forever changed by standing on the side of love, by reaffirming our commitment to religious freedom, and by recommitting ourselves to the fight for justice and equality.”
- The UU Church of Cheyenne countered a proposed local Quran burning by planning an interfaith public witness. “Their participation is part of a nationwide effort called Standing on the Side of Love with our Muslim Brothers and Sisters,” the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle reported. “Muslims, Christians, Jews, atheists and Unitarians marched together…to protest religious intolerance.”
- In Alabama, Rev. Alice Syltie organized the UU Church of Huntsville to help Muslims celebrate the joyful holiday of Eid al-Ftir by passing out flowers to worshippers as they exited their service. The UU Church in Canton, NY placed an “Eid moubarak” banner on their front lawn with “Wishing You a Blessed Holiday” written underneath the Arabic greeting.
- The Herald-Times in Indiana reported on Quran reading at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Bloomington: “In today’s world we are so multicultural that we have to learn to live together in a way that affirms religious pluralism,” Rev. Mary Ann Macklin said. “When I study all the sacred texts, I find love is the amazing spirit that unites all the religions. Reading from the Quran Sunday will be a way to affirm that love in a real and constructive way.”
Thank you all for standing up for love and tolerance when it is most needed. Sadly, the incidents of bigotry and fear-mongering do continue. Three men allegedly painted a racist slur on a mosque in New York. Desecrated Qurans were left in front of mosques in Michigan and Tennessee. And now, a prominent Muslim civil rights organization is calling for stepped up police protection at mosques nationwide.
Clearly, we must remain vigilant. We must continue to build bridges. And we must carry the messages that we have put forth to the world over the past few days into our broader work to end discrimination and oppression against all people.
Together, we are making a very visible difference!
Standing on the Side of Love
Dear Friends at Standing on the Side of Love,
Thank you so much for sending the SSL signs. They were perfect. We had signs everywhere at our interfaith event and the banner on the front railing. We tied the theme “standing on the side of love” throughout the entire service. We are a small congregation (121 members) and we had 300 in attendance for the 9/11 interfaith event. All week we had excellent TV and news coverage. Here is a link to the service (never as good as being there):
I believe we were the only church in the Seattle area to do something on this scale and this inclusive. We built on our good relations with the IMAN center nearby and invited them to participate fully in the service, which they gladly did. The readings from the Qur’an in Arabic and in English, were very powerful as was the array of religious leaders from various faiths who laid a rose on the 9/11 memorial. Perhaps the highlight was the reception afterwards where everyone met their neighbors of many faiths. They stayed for almost an hour just talking and getting to know one another. It was amazing!
Thank you again for your help in helping us make our values visible in the community.
Rev. Marian E. Stewart
Northlake Unitarian Universalist Church
308 4th Avenue South
Kirkland, WA 98033
Dear Standing on the Side of Love,
Yesterday, I had the great privilege to march with around 20 members of my congregation, First Unitarian Congregational Society of Brooklyn at the Rally for Unity & Solidarity with Muslim People in New York City. It was an inspiring day with many calls to support the building of the Muslim community center in downtown Manhattan and to end religious intolerance in our country. I’ve attached a picture of part of the group. Thanks for your continuing inspiration- this campaign is imperative to our faith!
All my best,
This article originally appeared in the Herald Times.
By Dann Denny
Several area church leaders say the threat by the pastor of a small church in Gainesville, Fla., to burn copies of the Quran was wrongheaded and disrespectful. The threat was suspended Thursday afternoon, at least for the moment.
At the Unitarian Universalist Church in Bloomington, the Rev. Mary Ann Macklin, the church’s co-pastor, will do several readings from the Quran — the Muslim holy book — during Sunday morning’s service.
“In today’s world we are so multicultural that we have to learn to live together in a way that affirms religious pluralism,” Macklin said. “When I study all the sacred texts, I find love is the amazing spirit that unites all the religions. Reading from the Quran Sunday will be a way to affirm that love in a real and constructive way.”
The local readings are meant to counteract the actions of Gainsville, Fla., pastor Terry Jones, who had planned to incinerate a bundle of Qurans in a bonfire Saturday to mark the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks by Muslim extremists. Jones said Thursday those plans are canceled, in exchange for a deal to move a planned Islamic center and mosque away from New York’s ground zero. However, the imam planning the center quickly denied any such deal.
The Rev. Bill Breeden said years ago, if the pastor of a small church decided to burn a Quran, it would not have triggered an international outrage. “Back then, no one would have noticed,” he said. “But today, with the Internet and 24-hour news cycle, it’s ignited a conflagration around the world.” Breeden, the Unitarian Universalist Church’s other co-pastor, placed a sign outside the Bloomington church displaying a quote from the Quran that says, “Show forgiveness, speak for justice, avoid the ignorant.”
“We are living in a time when people are using fear and hatred as motivating factors in our society, and I believe this society is much better than that,” Breeden said. “We are doing this as a way of standing in solidarity for those who are being targeted as anti-American and the enemy, because they are not.”
Breeden said a Quran burning could do nothing constructive. Instead, he said it could raise the level of fear and mistrust among people of different cultures and faiths.
“The time has come for us to live on the basis of trust and love for our principles rather than fear,” he said.
‘I find it deplorable’
Father Rich Litzau, one of the associate pastors at St. Paul Catholic Center in Bloomington, said it’s his personal belief that extremism in any form is unhealthy and unproductive.
“Book burnings and other acts of extremism don’t serve any purpose other than to exacerbate things,” he said. “They do nothing to engender respect among people on different faith paths.”
Litzau said it’s unrealistic for us to expect to agree on everything, but we can be tolerant and respectful of those with different belief systems. “Christians are people of the book as well, and our Bible is as sacred to us as the Quran is to the Muslim world,” he said. “But if we don’t talk about our differences, we will never come to any resolution or coexistence.”
Beverly Calender-Anderson, director of Bloomington’s Safe and Civil City program, said the plan to burn Qurans had the potential to incite people against Muslims around the world, including Bloomington.
“My hope is that people in Bloomington will show goodwill and not let this event in Florida impact them,” she said. “I think the Muslim community in Bloomington understands that they have a lot of support from a large number of people, though I’m not saying they have the support of everyone in Bloomington.”
Calender-Anderson said she has no way of knowing what the Gainesville pastor’s motive was, but suspects it might have been to incite violence around the world.
“I find it deplorable,” she said. “Our country was founded on the basis of religious freedom, and to say that freedom is confined to only one religion I think goes against what the founding fathers intended.”
Calender-Anderson said people should remember that even if they don’t believe what the Quran says, it is a holy book to Muslims. “Burning the Quran would be the same as taking a Bible and publicly burning it,” she said. “Think of how outraged many of us would be.”
Calender-Anderson said most people in Bloomington know “the Muslims who live next door are not the people who flew airplanes into the towers.” Litzau agrees, saying, “Most of us realize there are far more Muslims interested in peaceful coexistence and living out their faith than there are who want to destroy the Western world.”
A good thing?
Faiz Rahman, an Indiana University associate professor in the department of geography and president of the Islamic Center in Bloomington, said he sees a silver lining in the highly-publicized burning announcement.
He said a few days ago there was a demonstration against the burning in Indonesia, and an 18-year-old boy being interviewed said he didn’t believe that just one church hates Muslims, but that all Americans hate Muslims.
“In one sense this burning is a good thing, because it helps Christians understand that just as they don’t want a small church in Florida representing them, Muslims don’t want Al-Qaeda representing who they are,” he said. “Most Christians are outraged by the actions of this church because they don’t feel it’s representing Christianity as they understand it, just as most Muslims are outraged by the actions of Al-Qaeda because they feel it doesn’t represent Islam as they understand it.”
Rahman said he personally doesn’t care about the burning.
“Let him burn the Qurans if wants to,” he said. “My only regret is that he’s gotten national and international attention, which I assume is his goal.” Fodder for terrorists
The planned Quran burning sparked protests in several Arab countries; and Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. and NATO commander in the Afghan capital of Kabul, has warned that images of the Quran burning “would be used by the Taliban in Afghanistan to inflame public opinion and incite violence.”
Rahman said that a Quran burning would provide fodder for those recruiting young insurgents into Al-Qaeda.
“It will make it easier to feed this concept that all Americans hate Muslims to young people who have no idea what the truth is,” he said. “They can be told, ‘You see, we are in a religious war.’”More >