Take the Pledge

"Police at the Imam Al-Khoei Foundation in Queens, one of four attacks involving firebombs on Sunday night." Photo by Robert Stolarik for The New York Times.

The New York Times has a disquieting article today about a series of firebombings that took place in Queens across Sunday night. The piece indicates that the police are currently investigating the arson attacks as “a possible bias crime against Muslims.” (One the places targeted was the Shiite Muslim-affiliated Imam Al-Khoei Foundation.)

The news of these attacks is particularly sad and frustrating in the wake of two other recent stories of prejudice on different scales (though they are by no means the only stories of awful acts of Islamophobia in the last several weeks). First is the much-publicized decision by Lowe’s to pull their advertising from the TLC show All-American Muslim after pressure from one conservative Christian group. Second is the somewhat less-publicized — but no less galling — news suggesting that supervisors at a Whole Foods grocery store denied a Muslim employee vacation time to make his pilgrimage to Mecca, and subsequently fired him.

Anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States has been out of control for too long. It has to stop, and more people need to speak up.

In particular, more religious and spiritual leaders need to speak up. Two years ago, I wrote a piece for Shambhala Sun Space, asking the question, “Why are some Buddhists sitting out the Islamophobia debate?” It received more comments than anything I’ve ever written for the web anywhere. I continue to ask this question today. Though, outside of Buddhist circles, I would definitely broaden it to “Why are some religious voices sitting out the Islamophobia debate?”

Certainly, there are always voices in the religious world speaking out against acts like the firebomb attacks in Queens — moments ago, in fact, not long after I’d started writing this post, Russell Simmons, Rabbi Marc Schneier, and Imam Mohammad Shamsi Ali issued a joint statement decrying the attacks and demanding action. But it should be deafening, shouldn’t it? The cacophony of religious voices decrying Islamophobia?

Let’s hear ’em, folks.

Here’s one simple way you can make your feelings known: TAKE THE PLEDGE!

Muslims are our fellow Americans. They are part of the national fabric that holds our country together. They contribute to America in many ways, and deserve the same respect as any of us. I pledge to spread this message, and affirm our country’s principles of liberty and justice for all.”


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