Sunday, December 04, 2016

Generous Americans Teach Us the True Meaning of Thanksgiving

(You can also read the article here.)

On the day before Thanksgiving this year, the Evergreen Islamic Center in San Jose, CA, received a postal mail that contained these lines:
“There’s a new sheriff in town – President Donald Trump. He is going to cleanse America and make it shine again. And he’s going to start with you Muslims. He’s going to do to you Muslims what Hitler did to the Jews. You Muslims would be wise to pack your bags and get out of Dodge.”
After some deliberations, the EIC board contacted the police on Thursday, November 24, Thanksgiving Day. Within minutes, law enforcement officials rushed to the Center and offered to provide extra security for the community. Local Priests, Rabbis and elected officials condemned the bigotry and assured us of their support.
As word of the hate mail spread through TV, newspapers and social media, support poured in. Our initial emotions of shock and distress gave way to hope and courage, and we realized anew how fortunate we were to be living in a country where ordinary citizens were united by the common goal of justice and freedom for all.
There is clearly a strong correlation between the election of Donald Trump to the presidency of the United States and the spike in hate crimes directed against Muslims and other minority groups. More than 100 anti-Muslim incidents have occurred across the country and more than 700 incidents targeting different minority groups have been documented by the Southern Poverty Law Center since November 8.
We are not afraid that bigots and hatemongers, emboldened by Donald Trump, are coming out of the woodwork to threaten us, although we remain cautious and vigilant. Ours is a land of law, and even though the law is sometimes bent by the wealthy and the powerful in their favor, we are confident that no one is above the law. Remember the case of the late President Richard Nixon, who had to resign in disgrace in 1974 to avoid certain impeachment.

Jews and Christians gather in front of Evergreen Islamic Center, San Jose, CA,
on Friday, December 2, 2016, to express their solidarity with Muslims.
Far from frightening us, this hate mail has, in fact, given us a renewed sense of mission when the ‘new sheriff’ begins his presidency. We are heartened that mayors and presidents of colleges and universities across the country have declared their cities and campuses ‘sanctuary spaces’ for undocumented workers, students and their families.
But ultimately, our faith in our country comes from the numerous messages, emails and cards we received from neighbors and strangers.
“As a Christian,” wrote Vance, “I am taught that above all else, ‘love thy neighbor.’ I want to extend my love to your community and want you to know that many Christians, like me, stand in solidarity with you.”
Miriam wrote that “not all Americans feel the way the hateful people do. I am a Jew and I support you, my cousins. Love and peace, we are all 1!”
Holly assured us that “I will do whatever it takes to help protect your first amendment rights.” Stacy reminded us that “there are many of us in San Jose who do not feel the way the haters do. We welcome you for the diversity and the rich culture you bring to our lovely city.”
Davida was sad because “here in Bay Area we think we live in a sanctuary of unity but unfortunately that is not the case. I pray for peace and understanding for all in this uncertain time.” And this from Marina: “I have heard some people talking about a ‘Muslim registry.’ Many Americans have said they will register as Muslims regardless of their faith, as many Danes under Nazi occupation wore yellow stars. I, too, will register as a Muslim if that time were to come.”
Muslim-Americans could not have learned more vividly the true meaning of Thanksgiving were it not for our generous fellow Americans. We are truly blessed.

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