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Director’s Desk: “Yesterday in Center City”

by Jacob Bender
Executive Director, CAIR-Philadelphia

It was a pleasure to represent CAIR-Philadelphia as I marched down Broad Street with thousands of people responding to the events of last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia.

United in our disgust with the president’s response to the murder of Heather Heyer by a neo-Nazi using his car as a weapon, the march was also a condemnation of white supremacist racism, the implicitly violent ideology embedded into the DNA of American history and culture. Our march, on the contrary, was remarkably diverse; a multi-racial and multi-faith outrage responding to the never-imagined sight of torch bearing neo-Nazis marching in the streets of American cities.

Three of the rally’s speakers have long relationships with CAIR: Rabbi Mordechai Liebling of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College spoke movingly about his two days in Charlottesville, coming face to face with neo-Nazis and seeing the victims of the car attack being loaded into ambulances. Rev. Linda Noonan of the Chestnut Hill United Church spoke of the need for interfaith unity in these perilous times. Finally, Kameelah Mu’min Rashad, Fellow for Spirituality, Wellness and Social Justice at the University of Pennsylvania, admonished those in the crowd expressing shock at the direction of our nation under Trump. For as horrible as the events in Charlottesville were, they should be understood as the rule — not the exception — in our country’s treatment of its African American population.

She concluded her remarks with this powerful message from the Qur’an: “O you who believe, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for Allah, even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives.” [4:135] Important words to remember and live by.

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After Charlottesville

by Jacob Bender
CAIR-Philadelphia Executive Director

Memorial

There are moments in history when time itself seems to just stop, and then abruptly change direction. Sometimes the momentous quality of these events is self-evident to those caught up in their wake: the fall of Baghdad in 1258; Lenin arriving at the train station in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1917; Rosa Parks boarding her bus in 1954; the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963; the Iranian Revolution of 1979; the attacks of Sept 11, 2001. What unities these events are their transformative impact, dividing time into a before and an after (as in before 9/11 and post-9/11).

Perhaps the murder in Charlottesville of Heather Heyer by a neo-Nazi thug, using his car as a weapon, will prove to be one of these transformative moments, the event that succeeded in uniting the entire disparate range of oppositional forces into a unified resistance capable of effectively countering the policies of this president. Insha’allah, we might say, if only. Indeed, the stories now coming out about Heather paint a picture of a strong, independent young woman, and her mother said of her, “I almost feel that this is what she was born to be, a focal point for change.”

Heather Heyer

My friend Rabbi Mordechai Liebling also went to Charlottesville last weekend in answer to a call for religious leaders from around the country to head to the Virginia city to counter a planned “Unite the Right” march composed of white nationalists, neo-Nazis, KKK members, and Islamophobes. Rabbi Mordechai is a child of holocaust survivors, Director of the Social Justice Organizing Program at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Philadelphia, and is a long-time supporter of CAIR and a friend of the Muslim community. Read more…

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Dar al-Farooq Islamic Center Bombed in Bloomington, MN

A bomb exploded Saturday in the early hours of the morning at the Dar Al Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, Minnesota. The building sustained extensive damage, although there were no injuries. A worshiper reportedly saw a truck speed out of the mosque’s parking lot after the blast.

Our colleagues at CAIR-Minnesota are offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the bombing.

CAIR’s national office, as well as we here at CAIR-Philadelphia, are urging mosques and Islamic centers nationwide to step up security measures as a result of the bombing.

Jacob Bender, CAIR-Philadelphia Executive Director, said: “Regardless of the identities of the alleged bombers of the Minnesota Islamic Center, who we hope will be quickly apprehended, this attack comes in the midst of a nationwide campaign of vilification and demonization of Muslims and the Islamic faith by Islamophobic activists, irresponsible media personalities, and even high-ranking government officials. Only a concerted and united effort by the Muslim community and its interfaith and social justice activists will defeat the voices of hate now transgressing our national values of pluralism, democracy, and justice.”

See Los Angeles Times Article: ‘There is too much anger out there.’ Bombing of a Minnesota mosque leaves Muslims concerned

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Advocacy Update: March on Harrisburg

It has been over two months since a courageous group of March on Harrisburg activists embarked from Philadelphia to a 105-mile political pilgrimage to the Pennsylvania Statehouse to demand real reform with three pro-democracy and anti-corruption bills: automatic voter registration, non-partisan redistricting to end gerrymandering, and a ban of legalized bribery.

As we traveled by foot, we educated people along the way and met with legislators in their in-district offices. We held rallies in small-town public squares and held panels with journalists and other guest speakers, making new friends and allies in the striving for a good government that serves us better.

Upon arrival in Harrisburg, activists and volunteers delivered hundreds of hand-written letters and postcards to dozens of State representatives. Then we committed to three days of nonviolent civil disobedience, which upped the political pressure and gained the attention and admiration (or frustration!) of many at the Pennslyvania Statehouse. Read more…

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Church lecture series explores Muslim culture and faith

by John W. Coleman
Eastern PA Conference of the United Methodist Church

That which is, is far off, and deep, very deep; who can find it out? I turned my mind to know and to search out and to seek wisdom and the sum of things… Ecclesiastes 7:24-25a (NRSV)

Grove UMC in West Chester, Pa., offers an Adult Forum on Sundays that reaches beyond the usual Bible study and Sunday school to serve inquiring minds who seek to understand “the sum of things.” Indeed, the church went deeper in that quest this year by examining a topic that may seem “far off” but is very close to home: the history, faith and culture of Muslim people.

Many American Christians recognize the importance of learning about Muslim faith and culture; but that recognition is not as widespread as it should be. Iftekhar Hussain, a Muslim U.S. citizen and business consultant born in Bangladesh, and Chairman of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in Pennsylvania, has worked for 15 years to expand awareness among willing learners. Also a member of the Philadelphia CAIR’s executive committee, he teaches in churches, synagogues, mosques, schools and other settings throughout our region, always offering his knowledge and insight at no cost. Read full article at EPAUMC.org

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