How is Religious Bigotry Playing into Current U.S. American Politics? By Rabbi Amy Eilberg

For months now, we have been bombarded by exhortations about “making America great again.” This mean-spirited and polarizing campaign slogan speaks of an American greatness that I do not recognize or honor. A completely subjective Google search identified the following definitions of American greatness that ring true for me:   We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men [sic] are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. (Declaration of Independence) Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door.  (Emma Lazarus, engraved on a plaque at the Statue of Liberty) This country will not be a good place for any of us to live in unless we make it a good place for all of us to live in. (Theodore Roosevelt, http://www.theodoreroosevelt.org/site/c.elKSIdOWIiJ8H/b.9297493/k.7CB9/Quotations_from_the_speeches_and_other_works_of_Theodore_Roosevelt.htm) Admittedly, the search was conducted by a died-in-the-wool liberal, raised by parents who were as devoted to the Democratic Party as to the Jewish people.  National greatness, of course, is a deeply subjective thing. For a less partisan definition of national greatness, one might ask how the religious texts most honored by Americans throughout our history have defined national identity. In the Five Books of Moses (the first five books of the Hebrew Bible), one commandment appears more frequently than any other—thirty-six times, in fact.  It is the command to love, embrace, and do justice for the stranger. We are commanded to champion the needs of the “stranger, the...

How is religious bigotry playing into current U.S. American Politics? By Rev. Dr. Michael Reid Trice

Edmund Burke wrote prior to the American Revolution that: “No passion so effectively robs the mind of all its power of acting and reasoning as fear.”  The United States experienced irrational fear of German Lutherans in the 1890’s, fear of communism in the 1950’s Cold War, and fear today of Muslims in the American War on Terror.  Fear is not unnatural.  It can save one’s life by heightening response-time during a threat at-the-moment.  But there are different forms of fear.  Fear as unchecked anxiety in the public square is a caldron of irrationality, which anticipates awful events by awful people.  There is no  doubt that attacks by terrorist cells in Brussels, Pakistan, Mogadishu, Iraq, Egypt, Bangladesh, and more, provide significant cause for existential alarm to the cause of civilization itself. After all, no person has the right to kill his neighbor out of an ideological conviction.  This is the labor of demagogues, stupidity and hate, that must have no legitimate place in the human future. Even as this is the case, the world is infused with anxiety today.  Heightened anxiety has a strange effect on us.  Using Burke’s words, the “passion of fear” can make human beings seek out some person or group that we perceive will free us from the fear we are experiencing.  The process works like this: We choose a scapegoat who we brand as both the source of our fear and, as Rene Girard points out, is also our salvation from our fear.     Apply this logic to the treatment of Muslims in the United States.  If Muslims are assumed by popular consensus to...

Dr. Omid Safi

Omid Safi is Director of Duke University’s Islamic Studies Center. He is the past Chair for the Study of Islam, and the current Chair for Islamic Mysticism Group at the American Academy of Religion. In 2009, he was recognized by the University of North Carolina for mentoring minority students in 2009, and won the Sitterson Teaching Award for Professor of the Year in April of 2010. Omid is the editor of the volume Progressive Muslims: On Justice, Gender, and Pluralism, which offered an understanding of Islam rooted in social justice, gender equality, and religious and ethnic pluralism. His works Politics of Knowledge in Premodern Islam, dealing with medieval Islamic history and politics, and Voices of Islam: Voices of Change were published 2006. His last book, Memories of Muhammad, deals with the biography and legacy of the Prophet Muhammad. He has forthcoming volumes on the famed mystic Rumi, contemporary Islamic debates in Iran, and American Islam. Omid has been among the most frequently sought speakers on Islam in popular media, appearing in The New York Times, Newsweek, Washington Post, PBS, NPR, NBC, CNN and other international media. He leads an educational tour every summer to Turkey, to study the rich multiple religious traditions there. The trip is open to everyone, from every country. More information at Illuminated Tours.   Articles: Leaving America: The Land I want to Move to...

Our Muslim Neighbor – Knoxville

Religions for Peace USA seeks to envision a nation in which people of faith and goodwill live together in respect and mutual support, creating paths to peace and justice.  When dangerous mentalities and climates of distrust arise that threaten to obstruct this pathway, Religions for Peace seeks to offer a more positive way forward.  One such offering, formed in recognition of the growing Islamophobia in our country, is the Our Muslim Neighbor initiative. Our Muslim Neighbor seeks “to create a social climate that renders anti-Islamic sentiments immoral and unacceptable.”  We believe relationship building to be the best way of accomplishing this goal.  One way we seek to foster relationship is through a program entitled A Seat At The Table.  These dinners bring 10-12 people of different faith and cultural backgrounds together to share a meal.  During the meal, participants are invited to share their stories.  These dinners seek to dispel harmful prejudices and dismantle incorrect depictions of the Islamic community.  As relationships help eradicate fear and hatred, stories bring people into relationship by transforming abstraction into a real connection with one’s neighbor.  From these dinners we hope attendees choose to host their own gatherings and that ASATT produces a large, interfaith network passionate about creating a positive vision for its community. The Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Center for American Progress named Middle Tennessee as one of the most Islamophobic regions in the United States.  With this is mind, the nationally envisioned OMN campaign chose Nashville, TN as its pilot location and has experienced a good deal of success in the area.  Religions for Peace expanded to Knoxville...

Does Islam tolerate other beliefs?

Yes, Islam tolerates other beliefs. It is one of the functions of Islamic law to protect the status of minorities. History provides many examples of Muslim tolerance towards other faiths and belief systems. One is example is that when Muslims ruled over Spain, they had such tolerance of other beliefs that the Golden Age of the Jewish Civilization flourished under their rule. Additionally, Islamic law allows non-Muslim minorities to establish their own courts so that they may be judged according to their own laws. Finally, although the majority of Surah’s (chapter of the Qur’an) were recited during years of Muslim persecution in Mecca, none of them contain commands to fight or afflict violence to people of other religions.  References: Al-Dhaheri, A. A. (2013). 40 Top Questions About Islam. IslamHouse.com. http://www.icorlando.org/pdfs/en_40_Top_Questions_About_Islam.pdf Hyseni, N. Tolerance and the Qur’an. Answering...

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