Shadowproof

Despite Increasing Threats And Violence, Americans Show Support For Muslim Neighbors

Members of the Northwoods Unitarian Universalist Church stand with signs that show their support for Muslims at the Islamic Association of North Texas. (Ben Franklin)

Published in partnership with MintPress News.

AUSTIN, Texas — As Muslims in America face an unprecedented wave of violence in the wake of terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, Americans of many faiths are coming together to show solidarity against these disturbing threats.

According to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the largest advocacy group for Muslims in the United States, there have been 29 cases of attacks or vandalism against mosques in 2015 — the most for any year since the organization began tracking incidents in 2009.

“November 2015 was the most significant spike, with a total of 17 mosque incidents, with all but 2 of those incidents occurring in the wake of the November 13 Paris terror attacks,” CAIR reported.

The increased threats targeting mosques accompanies an ever-growing number of incidents against Muslims and Muslim-owned businesses in the country.

But even as armed protesters become a disturbingly common sight outside mosques, there are also growing efforts across the country to show support for the principle of religious freedom on which the country was founded. Many of the strongest efforts toward offering support and creating a healthy dialogue about the role of religion in America are coming from the Christian and interfaith communities.

Writing on Sunday for Huffington Post, Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, a professor of theology at Chicago Theological Seminary, wrote that these efforts “are shining lights into the darkness being spread by anti-Muslim fear-mongering and hateful speech, and many are also resisting violence.”

Here are five examples of America’s religious communities showing support for Muslims:

‘Tell them you support them being in your community’

MintPress News asked Ben Franklin, a representative of the Northwoods Unitarian Universalist Church located north of Houston, what Americans can do to show support for Muslims during these dangerous times. Together with the Unitarian Universalist Voice for Justice of Greater Houston and Solidarity Houston, Franklin has organized successful efforts to support Muslims in the Houston metropolitan area and throughout the state. He stressed the importance of first making connections with your neighborhood mosque or Islamic center, and making sure you know their wishes before acting.

For Franklin, the Irving peace march was a perfect example of this — organizers originally planned a rally outside the mosque, but moved to a nearby park at the request of the local imam after the KKK canceled their event.

Franklin recommended sending a simple letter of introduction and support first, then attending a public event to introduce yourself in person and offer further help. “Tell them you support them being in your community,” he said.

He stressed the importance of establishing relationships both with local Muslims and pre-existing interfaith groups before these kinds of xenophobic events occur, so that communities can be prepared to rapidly oppose anti-Muslim groups.

He says interfaith efforts are becoming more organized on a statewide and national scale. “We’re attempting to build a rapid response network. I’m hoping we can set up nodes in different cities so if one of us hears about an event we can pass it on and all be more aware,” he concluded.

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