Our Muslim Neighbor News

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Healing America from the Bottom Up

by Yehezkel Landau The stunning victory of Donald Trump in the presidential election forces all Americans to rethink our assumptions about the web of social relations in which we live. The political polarization of our society has been strikingly confirmed by the even split in the popular vote. The pollsters and pundits, as part of the comfortable elite, failed to appreciate the depth of resentment stirring among many Americans, not only white males with limited schooling or economic opportunities. The widespread failure to anticipate the election results reflects the silos in which we all operate, reinforced by the selective news outlets and social media platforms through which we receive news and views. The ideological fragmentation of America into segregated, self-reinforcing constituencies makes it impossible for us to hear each other or to conduct honest, compassionate conversations across difference. The consequence of this mutual alienation is a debilitating “blame game” in which our political opponents are held responsible for all the woes besetting our country. It is a short step from this negative generalizing to scapegoating “Others” as a way of coping with our anxieties or expressing our anger. The language of fear, resentment, and scapegoating was prevalent throughout the Trump campaign; yet to a lesser extent it also characterized discourse on the left, when perceived reactionaries were labeled “deplorable” riffraff who threaten the future of our country. But there is no rhetorical symmetry here. Trump’s bigoted, xenophobic, and misogynistic statements attracted supporters who share those hateful prejudices. His endorsement by the Ku Klux Klan is enough to ring alarm bells. Our neighbors who are Muslims, or Mexican immigrants, or... read more

Anti-Muslim Rhetoric is Sacrilegious and Anti-American

by Yehezkel Landau The anti-Muslim rhetoric used by various candidates for political office in recent months has done far more than pollute our public discourse with ugly bigotry and hatred.  That would be alarming enough to justify an all-out campaign to discredit the message along with the messengers. Sadly, the impact of this toxic language, amplified by sensationalist media, is even more dangerous than the reinforcement of negative stereotypes or the scapegoating of an entire faith community. The malicious appeals to fear, resentment, and hatred are a profound threat to the moral values that undergird American society. Those values include tolerance for legitimate differences of opinion, mutual respect, and the constitutionally enshrined right to practice one’s faith without harassment. Beyond that, Islamophobic rhetoric is an attack on religion itself. It is a sacrilege that cannot be tolerated by people who believe in the One God who has created each and every one of us in the Divine Image. As a Jew, I am aware of the anti-Semitic parallels from the last century in this country—including Father Coughlin’s inflammatory radio broadcasts in the 1930’s—as well as in Europe.  I know that a verbal assault on any single group or community is an assault on us all. What starts as a denigration of one religion and its followers inevitably becomes extended to others who do not fit the declared norm, including “heretics” or “infidels” in the rabble-rouser’s own faith community. The United States remains an unprecedented experiment in collective self-government. Its lofty goals and principles are a beacon of hope to people the world over. They convey the highest ideals of... read more

Religious Leaders Respond to Orlando Shooting

Dr. Tarunjit Butalia, of Sikh Council of Interfaith Relations The Sikh Council of Interfaith Relations stands with religious organizations across the United States in condemning the brutal murders carried out in Orlando this weekend.  The Guru Nanak wrote “God within us renders us incapable of hate and prejudice.” It is our hope that with a united call for peace, the citizens of this country can stand together and recognize that within them all is the power to extinguish bigotry from this world.” Statement by Religions for Peace USA on Orlando, Florida Shooting On behalf of our 50 national religious member communities, Religions for Peace USA lifts up prayers and our deepest condolences to the victims of the sickening attack this morning in Orlando, Florida that left over 50 people dead and 53 injured.  We especially stand with the LGBTQ community who were the target of this vicious attack. There is no excuse for such brutality. Whenever attacks such as this are perpetrated we are confronted with a choice: to mimic the hatred we see or make a bold commitment to overcome it. The interconnected nature of our world leaves us little choice; we must all become peace-makers now. If we respond to every act of violence with a thirst for revenge, we will undoubtedly succeed in little more than inflicting unspeakable suffering on one another. Religions around the world call us to our highest and best values — those which lead us to courageous peace-making on every level.   We, therefore, urge people everywhere, to make a fresh commitment to building a world of peace and justice and doing all we can to renounce violent language and actions... read more

Podcast: What it Means to Stand Together

“Legitimacy can be established through credentials … or it can be established through a track record and work experience, that you have indicated through some type of continuous effort that you are someone worth listening to.” “Our bigger challenge today is … the amount of indifference that exists.  That you see injustice taking place in front of you, and you have the ability to do something about it, and you still don’t.  You can have a perspective on a person or a community that they represent, without having ever met someone from that community.” “Find the courage to go and be with those who are different rather than waiting for them to be with you.” In this episode of our free podcast series “NYC Faith Leaders,” Maggi Van Dorn interviews Imam Khalid Latif, who shares with us his experience as the first Muslim chaplain of NYU, the emerging faith leadership of young adults, and how conviction inspires and necessitates a person to work across faith lines. We’re pleased that this episode will be the first entry in the Storybank of Religions for Peace USA’s “Our Muslim Neighbor” initiative, a long-term collective impact effort geared toward combating Islamophobia with a positive, informed, and consistent message of Islam and Muslims in the U.S. We hope you will not just listen to this series, but download the podcasts to hear while driving, jogging, or washing the dishes.  And subscribe in order to be alerted when new installments are available.  It’s a great way to learn about the faiths of our New York City neighbors. What it Means to Stand Together... read more

Our Muslim Neighbor Conference in Nashville, TN 2015

On September 26th 2015, the Our Muslim Neighbor conference was held in Nashville Tennessee. We welcomed over 130 attendees of many races and religions who gathered for a day of workshops, lectures and community networking to build a stronger movement in the fight against islamophobia. Our keynoters were: Dr. Ingrid Mattson, Rev. Richard Cizik, and Maj. Gen Douglas Stone Check out the video to the... read more

“Why I am Part of Our Muslim Neighbor”

By: Yehezkel Landau Associate Professor of Interfaith Relations, Hartford Seminary Our Muslim Neighbor is an exemplary grass-roots effort to improve relations among American citizens of diverse backgrounds and religious beliefs. Its accomplishments promise to yield lessons for other American communities. For me, as a Jewish religious educator and peacebuilder, participation in this initiative is a challenge and a privilege. It allows me to broaden my network of faithful colleagues, to apply the peacebuilding skills and approaches that I use in my professional work, and to promote greater mutual understanding among fellow Americans. As a dual citizen of both the United States and Israel who lived in Jerusalem for close to 25 years, I am painfully aware of how the ongoing tragedy in Israel/Palestine breeds suspicion and animosity among Jews, Muslims, and Christians in America. Addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in constructive ways, through respectful dialogue that taps our emotional and spiritual wisdom, needs to be part of interfaith encounters aimed at building bridges of mutual trust and solidarity. We all have a stake in improving the health of our society. Our children’s welfare depends on it. In recent years, it has become increasingly clear that we must combat Islamophobia and other forms of religious prejudice, lest these social diseases generate heightened fear, anger, and hatred. Our social and political conflicts require spiritual remedies, and that is why I am pleased to be part of Our Muslim Neighbor, offering faith-based approaches to the nation-wide problems of religious bigotry and intergroup... read more

The Challenge of ISIS in America: Perspectives from Interfaith Peacebuilders and Leaders

It’s time for a clearer, more respectful understanding of how the U.S. interfaith movement approaches the conversation between the so-called Islamic State and faith in public life to be heard. We can’t let pundits and so-called experts control the general public’s understanding. That’s why on October 27th, at 9:30 ET AM, we spoke with Dr. Omid Safi of Duke, Dr. Jerusha Lamptey of Union Theological Seminary in New York City and Mr. Ron Kraybill, Senior Advisor on Peacebuilding and Development to the United Nations, stationed in Manilla, to help us reframe this... read more

Life Together: A Community and Religious Leaders Conference of Middle Tennessee

This three-day conference was a time of reflection and relationship building among Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders in Middle Tennessee. We visited houses of worship, heard nationally recognized faith leaders speak to the importance of interfaith relations, and learned from one another about our rich and diverse traditions of faith. The Our Muslim Neighbor initiated gathered a core group of twenty religious leaders from across the region of Middle Tennessee to probe into the challenges and opportunities of life in our multi faith community. The video to the left covers the final interfaith panel: Life Together: Building a Community of Communities featuring Sheikh Osama Bahloul of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, Rev. Dr. Christine Hong, of the PC(USA) and Dr. Yehezkel Landau of Hartford... read more

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