A Special Charter Call on Islamophobia
The Charter for Compassion is having this Emergency Call because we are concerned with the escalating, corrosive anti-Muslim rhetoric whipping up Europe and the United States particularly. We are bringing together three voices: Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell, President of our Charter’s Board of Directors, Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid, Board President of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, and Sari Heidenreich, Regional Coordinator of the United Religions Initiative- North America, since we believe that authoritative voices are so needed right now.
The vitriol of Marine La Pen in France is matched with the venom of Donald Trump in the US; street violence ranges from Pegida marchers in Germany to what appears to be attempted arson on a mosque in Finsbury Park. In response, we hold this Emergency Call on countering Islamophobia.
In preparation for this call and to serve as an ongoing, evolving resource, the Charter has developed an Islamophobia Guidebook to help with personal responses and also to help teachers work with students, managers with employees, activists with communities.
Conference Call Speakers
Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell: President of the Board of Directors for the Charter for Compassion International (http://www.charterforcompassion.org/). Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell is an ordained minister and has given national and international leadership to both ecumenical and interfaith work. Rev. Campbell is a devoted activist for peace and social justice, believing that citizens in a democracy must act on their conscience. This commitment was crafted during her life changing work with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and was deepened in the struggle to end apartheid in South Africa.
Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid: Board President of the Parliament of the World’s Religions (https://www.parliamentofreligions.org/).
Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid is an Imam in the Chicago Muslim community. He is president of Sound Vision Foundation, which runs the daily radio Islam, and former Chairperson of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago. He has written extensively on religion, public policy and applied aspects of Islamic living. Imam Mujahid has initiated a joint campaign between American Muslims and the National Organization of Women (NOW) to declare rape a war crime.
Sari Heidenreich: The Regional Coordinator, United Religions Initiative (URI)- North America (http://www.uri.org/).
Sari has a background of cross-cultural living and working. She spent middle and high school in Ghana, West Africa, where her parents worked with a network of churches. As an adult, she spent time living, traveling and working in Middle East, including a year-long stint in Jerusalem. This immersion gave her the life-changing experience of entering into the worlds of people from different backgrounds and finding common ground with them.
- Welcome and Instructions for the Call (Marilyn Turkovich and Reed Price)
- Introduction and Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell's Reflections and Sharing (Marilyn and Rev. Joan)
- Introduction and Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid's Reflections and Sharing (Marilyn and Imam Malik)
- Introduction and Sari Heidenreich's Reflections and Sharing (Marilyn and Sari)
- Questions and Answers (All)
- Next Steps and Follow-up (Marilyn)
- Announcement of the Guidebook and Pay It Forward for Calls (Sande Hart)
- Closing (Marilyn)
Welcome and Instructions for the Call
Marilyn Turkovich: Good morning everyone. I am very excited about this call. 469 people registered. This is a new height for us for call participants. You all received an email about the call. This call has not been planned for months. It has been organized in about a week. Also, we have assembled a guidebook, the “Islamophobia Resistance Guide”. You will hear a little bit more about the guide at the end of the call.
Reed Price: Good morning. I am Reed Price with the Charter. I am helping organize the call. In the registration notice that gave your call-in information, there is a button to click for the webinar. When you click on this, you can see the websites that are highlighted during the call. Now on your screen you should see the “Islamophobia Resistance Guide”. You are able to scroll and explore the websites that are shown.
Marilyn: We want to get into the call. Over the past few weeks, the Charter has received a number of messages and inquiries expressing people’s questions, concerns, and need for support. We decided to have this call to address these issues and give people the opportunity to benefit from the vast experience of our speakers- Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell, President of Charter’s Board of Directors, and Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid who we worked with closely over the last three years on the Parliament of the World’s Religions. Also, we have Sari Heidenreich who is from the United Religions Initiative (URI). We thought we would bring together these 3 people to share their thoughts and insights. We are asking Rev. Joan to give an overview, Imam Malik to directly respond to some of your questions, and then Sari to talk about some of the positive things that are happening around the world.
Introduction and Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell's Reflections and Sharing
Marilyn: First, I would like to introduce Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell, President of Charter’s Board of Directors. She is a guiding force for the Charter.
Rev. Joan: Thank you for being here in spirit and in reality. I am 84 and have seen a lot. The greatest lesson I have learned in working on issues with Dr. King and others is that though it difficult to face the challenges we have in our world, it is richly rewarding. As I look back on the struggles we have faced, it is always and forever the right way to go. It is not easy.
A few words about my own life: When I was 32, the country was just beginning to take seriously the issues of racial justice. People were beginning to act and take ownership. The religious community and those in caring situations began to take on the issues of race. One of the things we have to all remember- taking on prejudice is not new. We have seen it before in other places, in facing other issues. It takes courage to speak out. It takes courage to step up to the plate against evil. Evil is difficult. It is true and it takes a lot of strength. I am so pleased to see the number of people on this call today. We need every single person who is willing to be brave and courageous. Injustice is not the way of life that we have been taught. We must fight against it. When I began to be involved with Dr. King, I did not know the path or the disappointments we would face even in my own congregation. In 1954 I had invited Dr. King to my congregation to speak. I thought it was wonderful. However, seated in the pews were people who were fearful and prejudiced. As it turned out though, they did not win. There were more people in the congregation who wanted Dr. King there than those who did not want him there.
Today, we are up against something very strong. It will take all our time and energy. We have to say to ourselves that it is worth it. It does not have to be this way. We have to honor our Muslim sisters and brothers. The difficulty in our congregation made us stronger. My own daughter became the Mayor of Cleveland later. We saw what it meant to encounter danger. It is in your own soul and heart that you become committed and you claim for yourself the right to stand up against injustice.
I have read all of your questions and I am honored by them. Many of the questions say, who am I, how can we take on issues like this? Absolutely, we can take this on. You on this call and others can make a difference. I hope you say you are willing to take the risk. It will not be an easy walk. We ourselves will be made stronger by taking on this battle. It is one we can take on and one we can win. When my daughter ran for Mayor, she was informed by the risks we had taken earlier. She, as the first woman Mayor of the city, encountered difficulty, however, she was ready. We must make a commitment to those of the Islamic faith and walk with them. One of the most painful things to watch is that people include every Muslim in the acts of a few. These few people who are evil do not represent the whole. I am grateful to Karen Armstrong who has given us the gift of compassion. It is absolutely the right tool. It gives us strength of soul, body, and mind. It is not easy to take on evil and it is not richly rewarding at the time. However, when you look back on your life and say you have been brave and courageous and taken on risks for this good country, you will be glad for it.
What is it we can do together? We each alone can make our own heart and mind commitment, but we also need to fight together. Is compassion a big enough thought? Absolutely, it is. I learned many lessons from Dr. King and it was the message of non-violence. I remember standing by Dr. King in the midst of violence and a person came up to him and said, “Nonviolence is enough!” Dr. King’s response was that if we are committed to non-violence, our strength will be greater than those who are violent. Even if it is a hard path, it is the only path. King and Gandhi are our teachers. Are we on a risk path? Yes, we are. However, we will have a riskier life if we don’t take on the challenge before us.
I have learned from the Muslim people and this is the battle of our time. I cannot promise that it will be easy, that we will be successful at first. But it is the only path. If we grow to larger and larger numbers, we will ultimately defeat those who are the way of death and injustice. It is not the easy way or the safe way. Now, when I see my grandchild writing my life story, I realize the worth of the struggle and the worth of the pain. We have won many battles. There is still much more to do. I am grateful to all of you on the call. This is a big struggle. To do it in the name of compassion is the only way. Let’s follow the path of King and Gandhi. We have the strength to defeat those whose way is the way of suffering and death. I invite you to a purposeful life and walk.
Introduction and Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid's Reflections and Sharing
Marilyn: Thank you Joan for your powerful and inspiring message. We need to reflect upon and be informed by where we have been and the lessons we have learned. I would like to introduce Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid. Imam Malik, you have done an outstanding job as Board President of the Parliament of the World’s Religions. I also know that your work with “Sound Vision” is very dear to your heart. We are thrilled by the article that you wrote which inspired us to write the “Islamophobia Resistance Guide”.
Imam Malik: Thank you so much. Thank you Joan for the extraordinary lesson about struggle and hope. I am so moved and inspired by what you just said. Thank you Marilyn for organizing this call. I am so happy the collaboration between the Parliament and the Charter has grown. May God protect and reward you and increase your life. Anything I can do to support this task, I will be honored.
The goal for us is to liberate America from hate, fear, and anger. The rest of the world looks to America. By 2043, the census says that minorities will be the majority in America. This is a factor that drives hatred toward Muslims, Latinos, African Americans, etc. A goal for all of us is to liberate all of America from hatred. At the time of 9/11 – 59% of Americans had positive image of Islamic community- now only 27%. This change is having a big impact on Islamic community. Why do people disapprove of Muslims? Many say it is because of media. Media does not allow hatred of African Americans and Jews to go unchallenged. One thing we need to do is address the media. I am amazed at the thoughts and issues that people have raised for this call. Since 9/11, nothing of that magnitude of terrorism has happened in this country. Because of the connection of war and terror, we have started turning neighbors against neighbors. The media is run by human beings. They have compassion in them. Write letters when you like something in the media. Send feedback when you see hate-mongering and speak out against it. Connect with phone calls and letters. We need to learn the best ways to connect with the media. Also, it is important for organizations to have dialog with the media. Also, when you see hate in social media, it needs to be addressed.
Following a recent Republican debate, on Anderson Cooper’s show, Van Jones reported that 900% more American Muslim youth are calling suicide hot lines right now and don’t feel safe. In a Columbia University report it was stated that 7% of New York Muslim high school students are regularly beaten up. In addition, twenty-seven percent of Muslim youth are stopped by NYC police on the street. A Gallup Poll indicates that 18-29 year olds are least employed when compared with youth of other groups. This year more than 60 attacks have been made on mosques. Mainstream media is not playing a positive role to challenge and expose Islamophobia. Also, political leaders are making irresponsible statements- talking about stopping Muslims from entering the country. Mainstreaming of Islamophobia can be stopped.
When I visited a concentration camp near Berlin, I kept wondering how people could tolerate this. The camps followed several years of dehumanization of people. How can we help people differentiate between terrorists and not generalize to other people around the world? Fear is grounded in the forth-coming diversity. We need to address that. The fear, hate, and anger will not disappear anytime soon. There is a well-organized hate machine. Terror is connected with de-humanization. It is that cycle which is being perpetuated. We are good people, but we need to engage society in a stronger way. It will not be a short-term struggle, instead a long-term struggle.
I am inspired by you Joan. You have worked with a giant. I am personally partnered and the Parliament is partnered with the Charter for Compassion. In the Charter’s “Islamophobia Resistance Guide”, I present 14 ways to fight Islamophobia.
Introduction and Sari Heidenreich's Reflections and Sharing
Marilyn: Thank you so much Imam Malik for your insights. Now I want to introduce Sari Heidenreich. One reason I invited Sari is that we have an international audience. The United Religions Initiative (URI) has cooperative circles throughout the world. Sari will share stories of how people are responding in their communities to provide inspiration and plant seeds for more action.
Sari: Thank you Marilyn. The “Islamophobia Resistance Guide” is amazing and very thorough. So much of what I will say is in the guidebook. Thank you Marilyn and the team at the Charter who have put this resource together. I am the North America Regional Coordinator of the United Religions Initiative (URI). URI is a global grassroots interfaith network that cultivates peace and justice by engaging people to bridge religious and cultural differences and work together for the good of their communities and the world. We operate in 93 countries. Change comes from the grassroots. I am inspired by Joan. She gives me words to live by.
This morning I will give examples of groups working for social change and ending religiously motivated violence. From reading your questions, many people are having a stirring inside of them and want to know what they can do. Hopefully, these stories will be inspiring. First, I want to know where you are from [people were asked to press #s on their phone to indicate their location in the world].
My first story is about “Coexister” based in France (here is the English website: http://www.english.coexister.fr/). This is a youth movement and social start-up. It is a non-profit, based on the principle of participatory democracy. Within hours of Paris attacks, they had created an image that said, “We are one.” They mobilized almost immediately to counter the rise in Islamophobia. You can see their petition page that they have started: http://noussommesunis.wesign.it/en. This project has brought together social leaders from all over the world.
Reading some words of the petition –
“...terror aims at dividing us, our nation, our family.
They want to trap us. And we must refuse to fall into it! Division and stigmatization are at the core of this insidious trap. Every time we blame or point the finger hastily to a community in its whole seen as guilty we are falling into the trap of a planned and orchestrated division...”
I think this is what Imam Malik was talking about. This is an organization that says we support each other. “Coexister” has been around since 1989. They start with dialog- to get people to know one another. Then they start working together. Then, they move into awareness and train people to help raise awareness in youth about co-existence.
The United Religions Initiative (URI) has Cooperation Circles throughout North America. A Cooperation Circle is a group of at least 7 members with at least 3 faiths represented in the Circle. We are honored to have the Charter for Compassion International as a member circle and a partner. As the URI North American Regional Coordinator, my inbox has been filling up with how people in the U.S. have been standing up and speaking out against injustice. We are not the hatred that we are seeing. We are not the hatred that the politicians are spewing. We sit together at the table and support each other.
There is an organization, “Walk D.C.” that organizes a walk every year in Washington D.C. on the International Day of Peace. In the past few weeks they have pulled together a smaller event to walk between houses of worship. This event is a powerful way to walk together. The walk represents unity and stands up to the media. Vigils are also ways of standing together.
The Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County (http://interfaithccc.org/) is an interfaith group that lends their voice to support their Muslim brothers and sisters. They have letter-writing and postcard-writing campaigns.
The Interfaith Partnership of Greater St. Louis (http://www.interfaithstl.org/) printed postcards and sent them to Islamic centers and they were to pass them out to the Muslim community. This has happened in more than one city in the U.S.
We need to make our voices clear that we condemn Islamophobia. Media doesn’t cover the Muslims who are speaking out against terrorism. Interfaith Councils are helping to bring those voices to life. Another beautiful thing is to share food together. In Indiana, people come together to share a meal. In Los Angeles, there was a wonderful rally over the last weekend- a visual presence that says we do not stand for this. There is a need and a call for such action.
On Christmas Eve at 11:35 pm (10:30 MT) on CBS channels nationwide, there will be an interfaith celebration. It will be streamed on http://uri.org/cbs. For an hour we will honor the voices of many traditions. We will see stories of hope that inspire and help us move forward.
Questions & Answers
Marilyn: Thank you Sari- those are great messages.
Marie: Thank you for everything. This call is very encouraging. I am with the Compassion Convos, along with Louisa Hext. I want to find out if there is way for all of us to share this conversation and be unified in our message on social media. Maybe a hashtag? How can we go about doing this in a unified way?
Marilyn: Marie, perhaps you are best to help do this. Can you create the hashtag with instructions and we can include it in the report.
Marie: Okay- if people have ideas about the hashtag, please let me know.
Donald: I work with the www.globalhumanitariansummit.org in Atlanta. We want to expand to other major cities around the world. I am very concerned about all the things discussed on this call. I am very concerned about guns being sold that can shoot multiple rounds in one minute. This serves no purpose. We all need to speak up about this.
Marilyn: Thank you for that. This is a concern and one we should spend more time with. It is important to work with youth and increase their sense of empowerment and their responsibility to one another and to the place where they live.
Marco: I want to acknowledge this wonderful space. Thank you. This call really broke me down- it comes with sadness. How do we stay grounded and cultivate compassion over time, knowing that struggles, hate-speech, etc. will come and try to throw us off course? How do we stay grounded and not give in to despair?
Rev. Joan Brown Campbell: The whole idea has much to do with what you bring to the world in which you are living and working. It has to do with one’s own personal belief system. To seriously take on these issues, it takes a lot of personal strength and wisdom. Prepare yourself to try to answer some of the questions that people have. You need to be part of a group that commonly cares about these issues. The answers to these questions are never easy and often require sacrifice.
Name Not Discernible: I feel like we are acting like positive concepts can be are simple and they are not. I am moving away from the concept of non-violence. We cannot teach “non”. We can teach to hate, to love. What is a positive term that is the opposite of violence? The opposite is the word “equality”. So often we treat equality as a simple concept. It is not “self-evident”. It takes work on it and coming to terms with what it means to have equality. In addition to the education that we try to give to people who are burdened with anger, pain, and despair, we also need to develop for ourselves a more comprehensive and workable definition of the term “equality”- it is much bigger than civil rights. What is the opposite of hatred or bigotry? People will often say love, acceptance, compassion. What is the opposite of abuse of power? We have work to do to define what it is we actually want.
Marilyn: We’d like to offer you the opportunity to help us with this work. Do any of our speakers want to respond?
Sari: I want to affirm this issue. It is very important to think of language as we go about this work to inspire goodness. URI’s Charter (http://uri.org/about_uri/charter/preamble_purpose_and_principles) says we want “to create cultures of peace, justice and healing for the Earth and all living beings.” I offer this language if it is helpful.
Malcolm Richard Parlett: I am from Oxford in England. It is an interesting idea... what is the opposite of violence? I also think that we need a different kind of notion. People who hate and perpetrate violence are very limited in their range of thought. We need to promote “whole intelligence”- good mental health, seeing the big picture. Violence is limited. It comes from dark and limited places in people’s psychological experiences. We need competence in “whole intelligence.” We don’t have this concept in our repertoire.
Marilyn: Would you be willing to guide us to some writing or ideas that reflect what you just offered?
Malcolm: Thank you. Here is a resource I can offer. I have written a book “Future Sense” (http://www.bokus.com/bok/9781784624552/future-sense/) that explains my thoughts on this.
Peggy Price: Thanks to Rev. Joan, Imam Malik, and Sari. I am co-founder of “Compassionate Huntington Beach”, a minister, and involved with URI. I would like to recommend that each of you carefully prepare a set of questions and answers so that when you are in the space of someone who is uninformed about the Muslim people, you can respond in a knowledgeable way. If someone is talking hate, you can ask if someone knows someone who is Muslim. That often stops the conversation. It is important to know what to say when we encounter ignorance. We also need to ask the media to tone it down- write CNN, CBS, etc. At least they can know there are people who are not buying into the fear. How to be grounded? Mindful meditation is very helpful. Take time to be still and read something that inspires you and feeds you. We need to be the people that walk in a place of peace. If you are able, go to your City Council with the “Islamophobia Resistance Guide” and suggest that the Chief of Police, the Mayor, and City Council have copies of this. This is a way to calm people down.
Marilyn: Peggy, can you write some of this down? We can come up with something to share with others on this call.
Dennis: What we are not hearing from are the Muslims themselves. The teachings of the prophet are about compassion for others. It is not surprising that people are fearful.
Marilyn: I will ask Imam Malik to respond.
Imam Malik: Sure. There are three things to say: 1) In a survey, Muslims have been found to be more peaceful than neighbors of other faiths- from an article in Huffington Post (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/abdul-malik-mujahid/muslims-more-peaceful-tha_b_956267.html); 2) There is the challenge of the media. The media does not allow the voices of Muslims to be heard. I am well known and connected. I’ve been nominated five times for the one of the top 500 most influential Muslims in the world. However, I have not been invited to talk in the media. There is no opportunity for authentic community voices; and, 3) the collection of Muslims who are speaking out to condemn the violence are not seen in the media.
Sari: I would be really interested in seeing that collection. A friend of mine who is a Muslim woman of Pakistani decent was in a meeting that I attended. She expressed her anguish that she was not listened to. Whenever she spoke about Muslims being peaceful, she was thought to be wrong and people would not listen to her voice. This is an opportunity for us to be an ally to this Muslim voice. If we have the structural power, we should lend this power to the Muslim voice. We should encourage media not to put fear-mongering up on the mainstream news. We need to show that this is not interesting to people. Think before you click on an article that might contain this info. These clicks encourage the media to write these kinds of articles.
Next Steps and Follow-up
We will have a report and if you have info, to share, please send it to the email above and we will share.
The guidebook, the “Islamophobia Resistance Guide,” (http://www.charterforcompassion.org/index.php/compassion-and-religion/islamophobia-guidebook) is a work in progress and we will continue to add to it.
I will now introduce Sande Hart. She, Reed Price, and Barbara Kaufmann have helped with the guidebook. We would like to challenge you to let us know what you are doing in your community in reflecting on this call. Please send this info to the email above.
We will have a follow-up call early in the New Year. We will use the Maestro platform to have breakout discussions.
Announcement of the Guidebook and Pay It Forward for Calls (Sande Hart)
Sande Hart: Thank you to all the speakers and to the Charter. Thank you everyone for answering this call for compassionate action. The Charter exists to elevate compassion in our world. We want to inspire and bring information to fuel your work. These talks are important to expand our understanding and create Dr. King’s vision for a Beloved Community. These calls, however, are expensive. We were faced with the possibility of having to turn participants away on this call. Also, we want to provide resources for you, like the very thorough “Islamophobia Resistance Guide.” This document will also be emailed to you. The information in the guidebook is provided by key experts and compiled by Marilyn Turkovich. If you are inspired by this call, please consider making any size contribution. You can see on your screen a way to donate. Also, a link will be provided in the full report of this call. The global need for compassion cannot be more urgent. It is very important to promote compassion.
Please go to the Charter’s website (http://www.charterforcompassion.org/) and read the Charter for Compassion and consider signing it.
I am inspired by Rev. Joan Brown Campbell. Let us not retreat into fear and hatred. Let us stand up to it with fierce compassion. Please spread the “Islamophobia Resistance Guide” to all your networks. Write to your local newspapers, news stations, and other media. Please offer your donations and support.
Reed Price: if you plan to use the social webinar screen to donate, please stay on the line and do not hang up your phone if you want to complete that transaction. If you hang up the phone, you will lose the connection to the donation page.
Marilyn: Thank you everyone for joining us. We will now open up the call so we can say good-bye to each other. For all who celebrate the holiday season, we say “Happy Holidays!”
The Charter for Compassion International
The “Islamophobia Resistance Guide:” http://www.charterforcompassion.org/index.php/compassion-and-religion/islamophobia-guidebook
The Charter for Compassion: http://www.charterforcompassion.org/index.php/charter/charter-overvew
Donate to the Charter: http://bit.ly/CCI-donate
Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell
A piece from URI's Executive Director Victor Kazanjian entitled “We Weep and Then We Work”: http://uri.org/the_latest/2015/12/we_weep_and_then_we_work
URI's “Talking Back to Hate” campaign resources: http://www.uri.org/talking_back_to_hate/resources
URI has been asked to produce CBS's Christmas Eve Special! “May Peace Prevail on Earth: A URI Interfaith Christmas Special.” The special will air on CBS stations across the USA on Thursday, Dec 24 at 11:35 pm ET/PT