On the 27th of January, Trump signed an executive order to ban entry to the United States of refugees and legal residents, including those with green cards, from seven Muslim countries. This ban is irresponsible and reckless. It generates hate towards a large population of Americans because of their religion. It is violating the rights of people who have been granted access to enter the United States. And it is denying the responsibility of the United States, to join with countries around the world to protect people who need help, who need to be protected as asylum seekers and refugees.
An American friend, living in Medellin Colombia, has shared an action that she will be doing with her family from overseas. She, her children and husband, will be writing letters to the mosque in their hometown in the United States to show our Muslim brothers and sisters, neighbors and friends, that we do not agree with these actions of hate, that we reject ALL actions that target and discriminate against people because of their religion, and we refuse to let these hate crimes hijack the values that our country truly represents.
TAKE ACTION! Looking for a way to act overseas? Send an email or letter to a mosque in your hometown. If you can, collect signatures from other migrant Americans in your community to include with the letter. Prepare a solidarity package. If you have access to a reliable mail service, send your letters or solidarity package in the post. If not, send them by email, or scanned. I share with you my letter:
To the community of the Islamic Center of Columbia Tennessee,
In the wake of what is happening in our country, I am writing to you, as a Tennessean, as a member of the Jewish community, as the granddaughter of a Syrian and Argentine immigrant to tell you that you are not alone. To me and to most of us, you have always been and still are welcome members of our community. For every hateful voice, I hope you can hear all our voices, thousands and thousands in support of love, equal rights, diversity, and freedom. Thank you for your amazing contribution to our communities and country. We are better because of you.
In 2008, the building that housed your community center and mosque, the Islamic Center of Columbia Tennessee, was burned to the ground in a hate crime. I was living in Nashville at the time, and remember when we received the call. I never will forget what it was like hearing that news. I was ashamed. It was hard to understand how people from where we all called home, could do something like that to others. It resonated all too strongly with the images of the southern United States that we were all trying to overcome.
I was part of a group of people who joined together to support the mosque in the wake of that tragedy. Perhaps no community action could have overshadowed the fear and sadness you must have felt at that moment. But we worked with you to support an interfaith vigil to let you know you were not alone. We were a group of rabbis, and preachers, priests, mosque leaders and community members from all walks of life. I remember receiving a threat by email the night before the vigil, warning me that if I went, I would suffer the consequences. But we all went. When I saw so many people saying NO to hate, in the face of evil, it gave me hope. It made me feel stronger, like our community really could create something and that there was still something worth fighting for. The interfaith alliance that was formed in the wake of that tragedy is still strong today.
I do not know to what extent the Islamic Center of Columbia was able to recover from that hate crime and where the Islamic community stands in Columbia 8 years later. I know that many positive initiatives in Nashville, Tennessee have grown stronger in that time, with wonderful leadership coming from the Faith and Culture Center and other organizations and networks.
But I wanted to write to you all in particular, no matter where you are, because when I am reading the news, I think back upon that day we received the call. I imagine you are too. It has been almost ten years since then. Maybe you are looking back on that day, like I am, from the point of where we stand now and wondering, how did we get here? The years since then, have probably not been easy, and it seems like we now will face even more difficult times.
So I am writing to tell you, thank you for letting us in eight years ago, letting us be by your side as you dealt with that assault. Thank you for being leaders in our community for what is good and what is right. Thank you for being examples to our children on how to stand up for what they believe in. There will be moments, I am sure, when you will feel very alone. But you are not. Every step of the way, we will be behind you, in front of you, and at your side.