Jacob Bender’s Speech at Masjid al-Hidaya

Speech at Masjid al-Hidaya
By Jacob Bender
Executive Director, CAIR-Philadelphia
Friday, January 3, 2017

Good morning. My name is Jacob Bender, and I am the Executive Director of the Philadelphia Chapter of CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations. CAIR is the preeminent Muslim civil rights organization in the United States, with 30 chapters nationwide.

CAIR’s mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, protect the civil liberties of American Muslims, and all vulnerable minorities, to encourage American Muslims to take part in the democratic political process, and to dialogue and collaborate with other communities that promote the values of peace, pluralism, and justice.

CAIR offers free workshops to masajid all across the Greater Delaware Valley Region, informing both adults and children about their rights under the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, and preparing your kids how to respond if they do unfortunately come face-to-face with school yard bullies.

Our attorneys provide free legal service to Muslims facing discrimination or harassment. So if you are experiencing anti-Muslim bigotry in our workplace, CAIR can help you. If you are receiving threatening calls from the FBI or immigration officials, CAIR can help you. If your children run into bullying in their schools, CAIR can help you.

I have brought with me Know Your Rights business cards that you can keep in your wallet and that explains what to do if you are stopped at the airport, or you receive a visit at your home or workplace from FBI and other government officials.

These are difficult days for both the American Muslim community and our nation:

  • The new resident of the Oval Office gleefully bans tens of thousands of desperate Syrian refugees from these shores, condemning them to almost certain death;
  • The president’s key advisers are peddlers of extreme right-wing anti-Muslim and anti-Jewish conspiracy theories;
  • The proposed National Cabinet is full of people who refuse to accept the science of climate change, or are too concerned with corporate profits to let a small thing like rising sea levels get in their way.

It is easy to get depressed these days, and become weary at the thought of four more years under this Administration, as we struggle to defend all the social justice progress of the past century.

Yet I remain an optimist. I am filled with hope at the presence of our courageous Mayor and other elected officials here among us; I am filled with hope at the sight of thousands of our fellow Americans streaming into airports across the country to defy the bigoted Executive Order of the President; and I am filled hope because of the warm welcome that I, a Jew, have received from all quarters of the Philadelphia Muslim community since coming to work for CAIR three years ago.

My presence here today is a refutation of the lie that the Muslim community, and Islam itself, are inherently anti-Semitic, and that Jews and Muslims are eternal enemies. Rather, I am here today as proof that Jews and Muslims, inspired by our respective religious traditions, can indeed work together in this country for the greater good, and join with other communities in a great coalition against the ignorant, bigoted and bullying mostly white men who now rule our beloved country.

Allow me to end with one of my favorite verses in the Holy Qur’an (5:48): “Had Allah willed, He would have made you one nation [united in religion], but [He intended] to test you in what He has given you; so compete with one another in the doing of good works.

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