Countering Islamophobia

Countering Islamophobia

Recent events in the US have sparked a renewed interest—and debate—about Islam and Muslims. The commercial media has put two efforts aimed at limiting Muslim presence and striking at core beliefs at the center of the national (and international) attention. What has been described as “Islamophobia”—a fear of Islam and Muslims—marks a certain segment of the climate and discourse in the United States today. This approach is hurtful because it reduces an entire people of faith to stereotypes and images.  In response to that, the 2011 UCC Synod and Disciples Assembly spoke out unequivocally.  The UCC also adopted a resolution at its General Synod in 2019 called, “Reaffirming the UCC’s Commitment to Interreligious Relations, and Deploring Religious Bigotry.”

In Dec. 2015, Disciples and UCC leadership issued a statement condemning the vilification of Muslims. This statement refers to the US presidential campaign, the recent terror attacks in the US and around the world, and the Syrian war and resultant refugee crisis as factors that have contributed to the current climate. Global Ministries and the UCC and Disciples have spoken about these issues as well.

The Huffington Post provides a “A Running List Of Shameful Islamophobic Acts Since The Paris Attacks.” [Warning: some graphic language is included in the documentation.]

The United Church of Christ and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) engage in dialogue and action with people of other faiths, both in the United States and globally. Cooperation to reduce the effects of poverty, to oppose torture, to support Middle East peace, and simply to get to know one another are some of the ways that we interact with Muslims and Jews, among others.  Locally, nationally, and internationally, many good efforts are taking place to break down barriers of the mind.

In 1989, the UCC adopted a resolution at General Synod entitled, The Relationship Between the United Church of Christ and the Muslim Community.

A major international initiative by Muslims, inviting Christians into dialogue, focuses on the two common principles of Christianity and Islam—to love God and to love your neighbor. The invitation is called, A Common Word Between Us and You

In addition, in early 2016, the Marrakesh Declaration was issued, addressing issues related to the rights of non-Muslims in Muslim-majority countries and societies.

Four of the UCC and Disciples’ national dialogue partners are:

US Council of Muslim Organizations
USCMO’s Campaign to Address Rising Islamophobia
Islamic Society of North America
Islamic Circle of North America
ICNA’s resource: Defending Religious Freedom, Understanding Shariah

In today’s context, there is much that Disciples and UCC members can do to learn more about, and to get to know, our Muslim neighbors to contribute to a toned-down discourse, one that promotes tolerance and acceptance, and one gets beyond oversimplifications. An excellent khutba, or sermon, was preached on Feb. 3, 2017 at the Islamic Center of Michiana in South Bend, IN, by Dr. A. Rashied Omar on the occasion of World Interfaith Harmony Week and Solidarity Against Islamophobia.  Dr. Omar earned an M.A. and Ph.D. in religious studies from the University of Cape Town and an M.A. in peace studies from the Kroc Institute. He also completed study programs in Islamic religious education in South Africa, Sudan, Pakistan, and Malaysia. Omar’s research and teaching focus on the roots of religious violence and the potential of religion for constructive social engagement and interreligious peacebuilding.

In Islam, the Qur’an is the revealed word of God to the community, through the prophet Muhammad. You can read the Qur’an online or simply find a copy at your local bookstore or library. You will recognize many of the people in it!

Finally, a short primer, What is Islam? was developed by Global Ministries. The website Islam and Islamic Studies Resources is also a useful reference. To hear voices speaking out on Islamophobia visit Our Muslim Neighbor.

Some recommended reading on interfaith relations and Islam is available as well. Here is a guide on how to host an interfaith Iftar party during Ramadan.

We hope this resource will provide you with some helpful tools to learn more about Islam and Muslims, a faith community of almost 1.5 billion. Even so, there is no substitute for a direct personal encounter.

The Secret History of Muslims in the U.S. is a 2018 video showing how Muslims have influenced the country from its inception. The video chronicles this history from 1492 to today in this animated short from The New York Times.

Shoulder-to-Shoulder website – Standing with American Muslims; Upholding American Values
We call upon our fellow citizens to treat each other with compassion and honesty, and to foster an ethical commitment to bedrock American values such as pluralism and religious freedom, mutuality and respect—values also at the core of our religious traditions. See this article for information from Shoulder-to-Shoulder about how to stand with American Muslims in the aftermath of the 2016 Presidential election. Shoulder-to-Shoulder has a toolkit, meant to be a living document that will be updated, for mobilizing to protect and support American Muslims.

Center for American Progress report: Fear, Inc.
An in-depth investigation conducted by the Center for American Progress Action Fund reveals not a vast right-wing conspiracy behind the rise of Islamophobia in our nation but rather a small, tightly networked group of misinformation experts guiding an effort that reaches millions of Americans through effective advocates, media partners, and grassroots organizing. This spreading of hate and misinformation primarily starts with five key people and their organizations, which are sustained by funding from a clutch of key foundations.

Pew Research Center: Being Muslim in the U.S.
This video offers a look inside the beliefs and attitudes of Muslims in America; it features data from Pew Research Center’s 2017 survey, as well as the personal stories of Muslims from across the United States.

“Discover Islam” DVDs and Study Guide
Discover Islam has offered to provide, free of charge, a new DVD set called “Discover Islam: Documentary Films” to various settings of the UCC and Disciples.  The DVD set includes six half-hour programs, as follows:

  • Islam: An American Faith
  • Christians & Islam
  • Islam: Faith & History
  • Women in Islam
  • Islam: A Faith Hijacked
  • African Americans & Islam

Boston Review: “Islam on Trial”
It is painful to confront how deeply afflicted we have become with anti-Muslim prejudice. Even those rare Muslims we celebrate reflect our pathos.  Islamophobia did not start with President Trump nor is it simply the purview of people willing to spout hateful things about Muslims on TV or on the street. It is a historical phenomenon rooted in the history of colonialism. Today, Islamophobia is a widely supported, entrenched social practice invigorated by the rise of the modern national security state and the persistence of global wars against Muslim-majority nations.

Institute for Social Policy and Understanding: “American Muslim Poll 2019: Predicting and Preventing Islamophobia” Report

ISPU conducts objective, solution-seeking research that empowers American Muslims to develop their community and fully contribute to democracy and pluralism in the United States.ISPU’s fourth annual poll informs national conversations with the voices of everyday Americans. Researchers, policymakers, and the public have access to key insights and analysis into the attitudes and policy preferences of American Muslims, Jews, Catholics, Protestants, white Evangelicals, the non-affiliated, and the general public. For the second year, in partnership with Georgetown University’s The Bridge Initiative, we track the National American Islamophobia Index, measuring how much the public endorses anti-Muslim tropes.  An additional resource is the ISPU’s “Islamophobia: A Threat to All” compilation.

CAIR Report – “Hijacked by Hate: American Philanthropy and the Islamophobia Network

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has published this report revealing that almost 1100 organizations have contributed over $125 million toward efforts to smear Islam and Muslims.  A news report on the study is available here.  The full report is linked above.

MuslimGirl Website
A website that is “normalizing the word ‘Muslim’ for both Muslims and non-Muslims alike. was launched from the bedroom of a high school girl that was fed up with the misleading misconceptions surrounding Islam — the way the news coverage and media outlets kept skewing the image of Muslims into a nasty one; the mistrust, racism, and flat-out hatred that the inaccuracies flamed; the muting of young Muslim voices from mainstream society; and the resulting disillusionment that young Muslims suffer about their religion in the tornado of it all.  We at MuslimGirl are taking back the narrative.”

The Bridge Initiative
Based in Georgetown University’s Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, The Bridge Initiative is a multi-year research project that connects the academic study of Islamophobia with the public square.

Islamaphobia: A Threat to All
Institute or Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU) examines the impact of Islamophobia on the wider public and offers historical context as well as modern day best practices to meet this challenge.