Every day, I see the realities of an America that inflicts unspeakable trauma on communities of color and religious minorities. And as we remember the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and mark the fourth annual National Day of Racial Healing, I am reminded of how important interfaith collaboration is to healing this trauma, and how my community persevered through its darkest days in large part thanks to the support of our neighbors of different faiths, races and ethnicities.
In 2017, white supremacists bombed our mosque, the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Minnesota, as worshippers assembled for morning prayers. Though no one was physically injured, the waves of pain reverberated across our community. This attack was just one in a long list of attacks on the larger Muslim community that attempt to tell us that we do not belong here in this country.
I wish this were an isolated incident, but for as long as this country has existed, extremists have turned to violence to intimidate communities of color and religious minorities. The Muslim community — and especially Muslims of color — has faced intense discrimination that has only worsened since 2001. Just as we have been targets for white supremacist hatred, so too have members of the Jewish, black and Asian communities.While I, as a non-black Muslim man, live this experience differently from members of other minority communities, I see that our struggle comes from a common place of structural and systemic racism. Within my own congregation — home to peoples of diverse races, ethnicities and nationalities — the consequences of racism are acutely felt.A member of my congregation, native to Somalia, traveled back to his home country to marry his wife. They now have a beautiful baby boy who they are unable to raise together due to this administration’s travel ban, which has barred his wife and child from coming to America. Thousands of miles separate him and his loved ones because of an executive order rooted in racism, Islamophobia and xenophobia. He’s not the only one — numerous members of my congregation are directly impacted by the travel ban.
I’ve witnessed the effect of structural racism among my congregants within Minnesota’s education system that allows for the largest achievement gap in the nation. In 2006, I personally witnessed police officers slam a young, black Muslim boy to the floor because they did not see a person — they saw a profile. That horrific incident is one of several etched into my consciousness and drives me to oppose racism at a deep personal level.The Quran tells us the story of when God created Adam and commanded those present to prostrate themselves to him. Satan responded, “I am better than him because Adam is made from dust and I am made from fire.” From an Islamic perspective, very few things are truly satanic. Racism is one of them — the idea that someone is inherently superior to others by virtue of their mere existence.After the 2017 attack, as our community was shaken to its core, we were met with compassion from countless members of the greater Minnesotan community across faith, race and ethnic lines. To me, this support underscored the importance of collaboration between communities to facilitate healing. Today, a question that often weighs on my mind is how to create spaces for healing and reconciliation across faith, race and ethnicities.
Through my work here in Minnesota with ISAIAH and our national partners at Faith in Action, we are working to give people in our communities the tools they need to fight for justice, and the spaces necessary to work together with people from different backgrounds, who have a shared vision for a more just world.
One community alone cannot solve systemic racism. One community alone cannot eliminate gun violence, achieve a just immigration system, end mass incarceration, or win voting rights for all American citizens, regardless of race, ethnicity or economic status. But together, we can. And it is this togetherness that motivates Faith in Action’s work organizing training programs for those of different faith backgrounds to engage in dialogue, amplifying the voices of marginalized folks from different backgrounds, and integrating diverse voices when developing policy platforms.
Racism and white supremacy harm all of us. So, it will take all of us to end it. Creating a nation driven by solidarity requires organizing a faith voice grounded in moral courage. As we commemorate the National Day of Racial Healing, we are reminded that we are stronger together and must continue to create the spaces necessary to make a diverse, faith-based movement for justice a reality.Imam Asad Zaman leads the Muslim American Society of Minnesota. He also serves as chairman of the board of Faith in Minnesota, an arm of ISAIAH.
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