Written by Anthony Moujaes
A United Church of Christ congregation will host a public forum as part of an interfaith community effort in the nation’s capital to raise awareness in the face of anti-Muslim sentiment. First Congregational UCC in Washington, D.C. is coordinating the forum with the Shoulder to Shoulder Campaign scheduled for Monday evening, Jan. 14.
"Hate movements in the country have gained increase steam and influence in recent years, as documented by organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center," said the Rev. Susie Hayward, a member of First Congregational UCC. "It is imperative that diverse, multi-faith movements of love also gain steam and influence in order to protect our country's diversity, to challenge these hateful messages that spread misinformation and bias, and to stand in solidarity with minority communities made vulnerable by hate. To paraphrase the Rev. Dr. [Martin Luther] King: hate anywhere is a threat to love everywhere."
The forum is part of the response to an anti-Muslim advertisement, sponsored by the conservative group American Freedom Defense Initiative, which was posted in four D.C. Metro subway stations in the city in October. They read: "In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad."
As part of a counter-campaign, the Shoulder-to-Shoulder coalition and United Methodist Women posted billboards that read: "Hate speech is not civilized. Support peace in word and deed." Twenty-four faith-based groups from Christian, Jewish and Muslim denominations, including the UCC, spoke out against the hate speech campaign.
"You can draw a line between ADFI's ads that went up in public transit systems across the country this past fall, their new and even more insidious ads placed in New York subway stations this week, and last year's massacre of Sikhs in Wisconsin or the arson of mosques in Joplin or Topeka," Hayward said.
The first half of Monday's event will raise public awareness as presenters offer background about recent anti-Muslim discrimination and other hate activity, and how faith communities can appropriately respond. Later, the forum will speak about community organizing so multifaith groups can coexist in the D.C. area.
The lineup of speakers includes: Imam Magid (Islamic Society of North America), Rachel Laser (Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism), Rabia Chaudry (Safe Nation Collaborative), Dennis Wiley (Covenant UCC), and moderator Maureen Fielder (National Public Radio’s Interfaith Voices).