In a personalized gesture of love and solidarity with Muslim members of their community, a coalition of citizens in Albuquerque, New Mexico reached out to the Islamic Center of New Mexico on Friday by personally delivering hand crafted cards and letters of support after Donald Trump’s racist call for a ban on Muslims entering US.
The coalition was co-organized by Father Frank Quintana of the Blessed Oscar Romero Catholic Community and Susan Schuurman of Albuquerque Center for Peace & Justice (ACPJ), which has dozens of member groups including Jewish Voice for Peace ABQ, Friends of Sabeel ABQ and the United Nations Association of ABQ.
The letters and cards, many adorned with hearts and peace signs, were graciously received by the Islamic Center. Imam Shafi Abdul Aziz invited the coalition to attend his Friday afternoon service at their mosque.
Iris Keltz from ACPJ told Mondoweiss Imam Aziz’s sermon was about “inclusion, pointing out the similarities between the Abrahamic religions, mentioning that Islam acknowledges the teachings of Abraham, Moses, Noah, Jesus as well as the Prophet Mohammed. He pointed out that the underpinnings of all the religions is the golden rule: treat others as you would like to be treated, all day and every day.”
Associated Press picked up the story which garnered attention in the mainstream press around the country. They reported Imam Shafi Abdul Aziz as saying the letters and cards from supporters of different faiths were “heartfelt”. He expressed thankfulness people were thinking of New Mexico Muslims:
“We always encourage dialogue, and we are happy that you are reaching out to us…
During his afternoon prayer sermon, Aziz said true followers of Islam respect human life and people of different faiths. In addition, he said it was up to Muslims to speak out against anyone who participates in terrorist attacks.
Imam Aziz denounced Trump’s remarks and stated they “only encourage more Islamophobia.”
“(Trump) doesn’t represent America. He doesn’t represent God,” Aziz said. “He doesn’t represent peace and love.”
And Father Quintana echoed a similar sentiment, according to AP, “When Trump made those comments, most of us said we had to do something….That’s not who we are as Americans.”
Keltz told me she was keenly aware of sweeping Islamaphobia in our country, “I knew mosques were being set on fire, pigs heads left at the door, but when I sat with friends and fellow activists in the mosque in my community, I viscerally understood how alone and targeted they felt.”
Signs of solidarity with American Muslims keep trickling in, from the large gathering of 800 New Yorkers on Thursday, to protesters disrupting Trump’s speech at a $1,000-a-plate luncheon, as well as activists marking Chanukah by challenging growing Islamophobia in the U.S., and we hope there will be many more of them.
The simple gesture of delivering these supportive cards and letters took place on very short notice after Trump’s statement. ACPJ’s co-organizer Susan Schuurman, expressed to Mondoweiss the event was “very special and they were very moved.”
This is something anyone can do anytime, either in as group or as a solitary gesture, anonymously or otherwise, to reach out to Muslims in a similar way in one’s own community, that’s why it’s so inspiring.
The University Of New Mexico’s Generation Justice KUNM youth radio read aloud from the “love letters written in support of New Mexico’s Muslim community” as part of their celebratory “All about Love” broadcast on their Sunday program yesterday, honoring the great Indigenous, poet, activist and Native philosopher John Trudell.
Albuquerque’s Islamic Center of New Mexico has been the target of attacks in the past, their mosque was firebombed last year.