Trump’s remarks are a clarion call for the Muslim community to become involved in civic engagement and the political process; to make its voice known throughout the land by proclaiming: “America is our home, and Islam is our faith. We will not be silent nor disappear, neither today nor tomorrow.”
I was on vacation last week. My wife, daughter, and I spent the time in a beachfront hotel in Montauk, a lovely little village at the tip of Long Island. Vacations should be a welcome relief from the tensions of the world, but this year, the world found a way to make its pain known through the ubiquitous electronic devices that litter our contemporary environment.
I write about this, not only because it is the 70th Anniversary of the Hiroshima/Nagasaki bombings, but also because I believe the world continues to exist under the shadow of The Bomb. One Muslim nation, Pakistan, already has The Bomb, and the situation along the border with India remains extremely tense.
On the average of about once every two months, our office receives a “hate call.” These calls usually come in after office hours (as the caller clearly has no interest in dialoguing with us) and are left on our voice message system. The messages are often filled with obscenities, in addition to the usual delusional Islamophobic rants. On occasion, the messages include clear threats of violence, which we have duly reported to the police. CAIR chapters around the country report similar patterns of harassing and menacing phone calls.
We at CAIR-Philadelphia have watched the tragic events unfolding in our neighboring city of Baltimore these past days with trepidation and sadness, just as we previously witnessed the injustices committed by the police in Ferguson, Staten Island, Charlotte, and countless other cities across the nation. We should not delude ourselves: these killings of Black men are not the exception, they are symptomatic of the lack of due process by which African American communities are governed in this country.
On April 10th, 11th and 12th, I joined my fellow CAIR Executive Directors from over 25 CAIR chapters around the country, together with CAIR staff and Board Members, for CAIR’s National Board Meeting in Washington, DC. The Meeting was also an occasion to celebrate CAIR National’s 20th Anniversary.
This past Saturday, Feb. 21, marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Malcolm X in Harlem’s Audubon Ballroom in the year 1965. I was a teenager when I first read “The Autobiography of Malcolm X,” and I can still remember the emotional impact it had upon me as a white student involved in the Civil Rights Movement, as well as upon my political development. The book was my first real introduction to the religion of Islam, and led to my life-long dialogue with its faith and the Muslim community.
As most of you know by now, I am not a Muslim. I spend my days, and many evenings, however, working for the nation’s preeminent Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization. And so, since starting as CAIR-Philadelphia’s Executive Director in October 2013, I have been asked, and sometimes confronted, with the question: “Why would a Jew work for a Muslim group, especially one that has been accused of being connected to terrorism?”
I had the pleasure of representing CAIR at several venues these past weeks. First, on Nov. 3, I gave a talk at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster. About 100 people (faculty, students, and community guests) turned out to hear my talk about my experiences working for one of the leading institutions in the American Muslim community.
I will be speaking about CAIR and Muslim-Christian-Jewish relations at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, PA on Monday evening, Nov. 3. I will also be screening my documentary film, “Out of Cordoba,” at New African Center on Friday night, Nov. 14.