Or is hate in your heart?
Out of love are you giving,
How will you play your part?
'Festival of Faiths 2016'
Pathways to Nonviolence
|Roots & Wings, Louisville, KY|
During this afternoon's session, focusing ostensibly on "Islamophobia," Dr. Tori Murden McClure (President of Spalding University here in Louisville) decisively reframed the conversation at hand. To begin with, she (and others) tossed aside the term "Islamophobia" and insisted on anti-Muslim racism instead. They were resolute in making connections, distinctively American connections, between anti-Muslim racism and other pernicious forms. The subject, they said, is wrapped up in a package with the nation's history of genocide and enslavement, and with the nation's contemporary struggles as well (Black Lives Matters, most notably). Calling it racism makes these ties visible and unavoidably important.
Dr. McClure then reviewed just a bit of 21st century history:
+ That since 9/11, in the so-called "War on Terror," 1.3 million Muslims have been
killed (by fairly conservative estimates) and 25,000 Americans have been killed.
+ That since President Obama took office, American sales of military weaponry
overseas have more than tripled.
+ That fear clearly serves to obfuscate and delude, insisting on the hidden motives
and violent religion of the other, even as it hides the cruel and death-dealing
theologies manifest in our own national choices.
The problem, it seems so clear, is not the violence of Islam at all, but the insatiable violence and appetite of the American Empire. Is that going too far? Can we talk about the "American Empire" in this way? How else would one describe it? 1.3 million Muslim deaths (and, let's face it, the overwhelming number innocent civilians and vulnerable folk)!
While it's so easy for cultural elites (and Christians like me) to enter conversations like today's searching for clues to the crisis in Islam, or the violence of Islam, the more timely and honest questions revolve around American imperialism and the religious narratives that bolster and drive it. "Have you got good religion / Or is hate in your heart?"
Later, Linda Sarsour of the Arab-American Association of New York spoke honestly, and quite painfully, of her weariness as a Muslim and a mother and a American. She mentioned her three teenage children and her uncertainty as to what kind of country they're growing into. In talking about activism and interfaith solidarity, she was clear and prophetic. And she quoted an Aboriginal activist from Australia:
IF YOU HAVE COME HERE TO HELP ME,
I AM NOT INTERESTED IN YOUR HELP.
BUT IF YOU HAVE COME HERE
BECAUSE YOU BELIEVE YOUR LIBERATION
IS BOUND UP WITH MINE,
LET US WORK TOGETHER.
The day ended, on the big stage, with the gifted and spirited artists of Roots & Wings asking the only questions worth asking: "Have you got good religion / Or is hate in your heart? / Out of love are you giving? / How will you play your part?" The time has come, my Christian friends, to answer honestly and to speak prophetically and to stand in strong solidarity against the cold winds and hungry appetites of empire. Our liberation, after all, is at hand and bound up with Linda Sarsour's and Ingrid Mattson's and Imam Zaid's. Let us work together!