Just a few feet from the White House, a “White House Mass for Muslim refugees” was organized recently to stand in solidarity with the Muslim community. This Mass organized by the Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, a local advocacy group in Washington D.C. brought together a cross-section of DC’s residents. There were signs that read “Christians supporting Muslims” or “No ban, No Wall” “We are ALL Immigrants” “Our huddled mass welcomes your huddled mass” and “Refugees welcome”. This crowd of people brought together public-spirited Catholics, Muslims and others, with a passion for social justice.
According to a recent survey, Muslims are the least politically engaged religious group in the U.S. (among Jews and Christians and themselves), though the level of political engagement is likely to change after this election. As Imam Zaid Shakir in Austin, TX says, “We are in the battle of ideas – not a physical battle – but one of fighting racism and discrimination. This is our battle.”
Sabith Khan says we need to address the root cause of xenophobia and racism to tackle Islamophobia in the ‘public sphere,’ but what goes on in the ‘private sphere’ is far more important.
Sabith Khan reflects on the election of Amna Farooqi, a Muslim-American, to head J Street’s student wing: “While I fully support her right and choice to do what she pleases, it would be well worth for her to step back and consider her responsibility, given the privilege and power that she enjoys. On this account, I am not sure being the president of a pro-Israeli organization does much good to addressing the plight of the Palestinians. While I wish her all success, I do believe that in the system that she is operating in, without fully acknowledging the responsibility of the choices she has made, she may end up doing more harm, than good. “
Why does there seem to be so much tension between Muslims and Jews? Sabith Khan suggests that while the tension between the two faith groups seems to be about religion, it is in fact a political discourse in which politics is intruding the territory of religion. In this particular case, he suggests that religious traditions and institutions can offer solutions, rather than political parties or ideologies.
In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo killings there has been an effort to reify Islam and put a fixed meaning to this way of life/ civilization. Sabith Khan suggests we look at Islam contextually by placing our understanding of it in the milieu in which we find it instead of looking for an “essential spirit” of the religion: “American Islam is different from French Islam, which is different from that in Saudi Arabia. Speaking of ‘Islam’ as an all-consuming category, that subsumes all geographies, history and culture is not only naïve, but also dangerous.”