After Charlottesville


by Jacob Bender, CAIR-Philadelphia Executive Director

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.

Rabbi Mordechai Liebling

In an article Rabbi Mordechai wrote for The Jewish Forward about his experience in Charlottesville, he wrote:

“The overt assertion of white supremacy [at Charlottesville] is occurring at the same time that the challenge to structural racism has become more powerful through the organizing of the Black Lives Matter movement, the resistance at Standing Rock, the struggle for immigrant rights and the growing awareness of white privilege among many whites. This will inevitably cause more confrontations.

“History shows that a society with extreme wealth inequality will collapse, and it is usually ugly. The extremism of wealth gives rise to all other forms of extremism. We need to understand how white supremacy is at the root of the inequities in our schools and legal system. We must stand up against hate and for love, while we advocate for policies that bring about more justice.”

We at CAIR believe it is crucial that American Muslims fully participate in the opposition to the Trump Administration. It should be abundantly clear by now that Muslims are the favorite scapegoat of this Administration, and that the future of the American Muslim community is under attack. Indeed, Muslim activists across the country are joining hands with their Christian and Jewish brothers and sisters to oppose both the current government-supported Islamophobia, but all forms of persecution and oppression as well. To that end, we ask you to join us tomorrow, Wednesday evening, Aug 16, 7:00-9:00pm, at “Philly is Charlottesville March and Rally.”

A government rife with anti-Muslim activists and white nationalist supporters is unworthy of the support of the Muslim community. A government blind to the moral and existential danger of climate change is unworthy of the support of the American people. And a president who threatens the use of nuclear weapons is unworthy of the support or respect of the peoples of the world. NOW IS THE TIME FOR ACTION.