One of the things in common among the different faith communities in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, like in other American communities, is the dark shadow of racism and prejudice that continuously threatens them. No wonder, then, that the Muslim community in Dallas was among the first responders to the Jewish community center shooting in Kansas City. Two Muslims public figures and community activists and leaders participated at a vigil for the victims of the hate crime against the Jewish community last week at the Kennedy Memorial. This action happened during the Passover week when the Muslim community was in the middle of sending holiday greetings to their Jewish neighbors.
Frazier Cross, a 73 year old white supremacist, turned out to be the alleged shooter. The fact that the three victims weren’t even Jewish, but Christian, brings to mind the tragedy of prejudice and hate crimes that are so blind that they even misidentify their targets. I am thinking of the many Indian Sikhs who were killed or attacked in the aftermath of 9/11 because they were mistaken for being Muslim (both Sikhs and Muslims were head gears.) I am also thinking of the many visits I, as well as other Muslims and Christians, have made to a Jewish synagogue for interfaith events or presentations. Those three innocent victims could have been anyone. These victims could have fallen at a different faith community, maybe a mosque…
When we think of America as one nation under God, we see the many communities and states that make up one whole America. From many there is one. Diversity is God’s aim in creation in order to achieve unity. Think about it. Think of the verse in the Qur’an where God speaks to the whole mankind, “49:13 O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).” (Qur’an, 49:13) God created us different and diverse willingly in order for us to meet, greet, know and understand one another while appreciating what we have in common and what we differ about.
America has struggled with racism throughout its history. Sometimes Muslims feel that they are the “new kid in town” who now have to pay their dues of racial discrimination before they are fully accepted into the American mainstream. But sad events like the shooting at the Jewish center remind us that even Jews, and before them Catholics, like the Japanese, German, and Latino communities still suffer prejudice and racism.
Can we do anything to stop racism? Can we even stop it? The word racism is rooted in race, which is also the word that means competition. Perhaps racism is rooted in American culture because the culture was originally founded on the principle of competition. Each person or business competes against the competitors in order to make it to the American dream. Freedom of speech allows hate speech. We can’t stop it. But we can compete against it. We can enter our own race as lovers of peace and diversity, promote understanding in interfaith and intrafaith communities, and carry our own logos high in the sky calling others to follow us on this path.
I think that the Dallas interfaith community has entered such race a long time ago. This is why when tragedy hit, even outside Dallas, Dallas citizens jumped up in solidarity condemning all acts of violence. This is what the vigil is about and this is how the Muslim voice and presence were cast into this national unity.
Praying for a better and more peaceful tomorrow for all Americans and all the citizens in the whole world.