Close to Home: Standing up for our Muslim neighbors, as a family

There is something we all know. We experience it when we strike up a conversation with someone in the checkout line or when we nod to a stranger on the street. As we cool the brow of someone sick with fever, we notice it. Simply, it's this: We are connected. We belong to one another.

It is this bond that drives our best impulses — to respond to people in need, to volunteer, even to put ourselves in danger to rescue others from peril. We are of one fabric, members of one human family.

Or, as the Qur'an puts it, we are created min nafs wahidah, 'of one soul.'

This is not something we believe. It is something we know to the marrow of our bones, to the center of our beings.

It is also what causes us such pain when one social, ethnic or religious group is singled out as 'other,' discriminated against, talked about with suspicion, stigmatized, or worse. And this is what we see happening at this very moment, directed against Muslims in this country.

Politicians, for their own gain, fan the fires of hate.

They goad the public, implying that law-abiding Muslim citizens are dangerous.

They talk about closing borders, about creating internment camps. If this reminds you of our country's treatment of Japanese Americans in World War II or the treatment of Jews in Germany in the 1930s, it should.

Now is a pivotal moment. Scripture instructs us not to stand idly by as our neighbor bleeds. But we must not wait for the bleeding to begin.

Now, not later, is the time to speak with a voice of reason, empathy and understanding.

Now, not later, is the time to speak up for the rights and safety of every member of this community.

Now, not later, is the time to repair the moral fabric of our country.

Over the weekend of March 11 to 13, participating clergy across the county will be speaking to their congregations about the hate that fuels discrimination against our Muslim neighbors.

And then on Sunday, March 13, at 3 p.m., at Congregation Ner Shalom in Cotati, the Interfaith Council of Sonoma County will offer people of conscience in Sonoma County an opportunity to gather in friendship and support of our Muslim neighbors.

There will be speakers expressing what it is like to live as a Muslim in America in these times, and there will be music and food, because that is what families do.

Together we will join our hearts to be the very best we can be across differences, and to demonstrate what it is truly like to be 'of one soul.'

The Rev. David Parks- Ramage is pastor of the First Congregational United Church of Christ in Santa Rosa. Reb Irwin Keller is rabbi for Congregation Ner Shalomin in Cotati.

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