Why We’re Allies of the Muslim Community – Five Short Stories

Hank Millstein

I can answer the question of why I work for ING in one word: Solidarity. Solidarity is a key concept both in Catholic social teaching and in the labor movement — and I’ve been both a Catholic and a union activist and supporter for many years. Solidarity means putting myself on the line when others are threatened or attacked — not just out of altruism (though that’s important) but out of the understanding that it’s my life and that of my family and community that’s on the line too.

As the old labor movement adage has it, “An injury to one is an injury to all”; or, as Martin Luther King put it, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” If Muslims’ rights and freedom are threatened, so are mine.

Five years ago, I welcomed the opportunity to work at ING because I wanted to learn about Islam, a major religion that I knew little about. Muslims today find themselves on the front line against what’s turning out to be a global movement of exclusivism and xenophobia. And my work with ING was a good fit for what has turned out (though no plan of my own) to be my career path: Working to defend and preserve minority cultures.

But now, my commitment to ING’s mission has taken on a new dimension. Muslims today find themselves on the front line against what’s turning out to be a global movement of exclusivism and xenophobia that threatens all of us. I feel that threat all the more because, though by religion I’m a Christian, I was born and still identify as a Jew. So, I’m glad to be on the front line with my Muslim sisters and brothers.

Moreover, I’m glad to be on that front line with a religious organization that sees love and understanding rather than hostility and violence (verbal or otherwise) as the way forward. Left to myself, I can easily descend to hatred and rage. ING reminds me to live by another of King’s statements: “Hatred cannot drive out hatred; only love can do that.”

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