Remember the six American imams pulled off the plane in handcuffs last month? In response, an interfaith group of religious leaders, including one rabbi, staged a pray-in at Washington National Airport. Quoting from Rabbi Debora Gordon's blog:
"That’s Rabbi Waskow on the right, linking arms with (right to left) Mahdi Bray, Director of the Muslim American Society; Rev. Walter E. Fauntroy, with the National Black Leadership Roundtable; Ibrahim Ramey, Director of Civil and Human Rights with the Muslim American Society (just behind the linked four); and Imam Omar Shahin. They are at Washington’s Ronald Reagan National Airport, Monday, Nov. 27, 2006."
The charges were moving their seats, asking for a sealtbelt extender, praying in public, and making a passenger uncomfortable by being dark-skinned and Islamic. Oh yes, and the passenger claims they were criticizing the American government. (note to those unfamiliar with the US constitution - the First Amendment guarantees the right to criticize the American government, even in a commercial airplane) The imams forfeited their tickets and were delayed hours as well as being insulted. In response, a group of religious leaders, including Rabbi Arthur Waskow, led a protest at Washington Reagan National Airport.
You must read Rabbi Waskow's account here, but I'll quote something that my Lebanese cousins (figurative and literal) need to read:
"Muslims" is a category only as a religious descriptor, and even that is pretty complicated. To be frightened or hateful toward all Muslims, or any subset, because of who they are – not what specific people do – is the same thing we call anti-Semitism or racism. It stigmatizes a whole community on account of the behavior of a few.
The worthy answer to such fear and hatred is something like: "I know you are frightened, but we can't behave that way. We can and should protect ourselves by regulating physically dangerous actions, by rules that apply to everyone -- and then we honor the uniqueness of each community and each individual."
I love this protest, I love the accounts of it (and I haven't even googled to find what the Muslim leaders involved have published - more later). Note in Rabbi Gordon's blog the photo of Martin Luther King, Jr. linking arms with Rabbi Abraham Heschel at a 1960s civil rights protest. This is my America at work, and it's not dead yet.
Oh and by the way, for all you American and Israeli Muslim-bashers out there, I have just received from Rabbi Michael Lerner a statement from one of the pictured Muslims, Ibrahim Ramey, condemning those who deny the Holocaust. He specifically condemns the Iranian conference full of white supremacists and Ku Klux Klansmen. I'll put up Mr. Ramey's statement as a separate post later.
I have a Hanukkah party to attend tonight for which I'm roasting six chickens, so I must leave the computer. The Hanukkah story is not that conducive to Arab-Jewish amity, but my Jewish friends in America like to celebrate with candles, games, and delicious fried potato pancakes, so my family and I always join in, in the spirit of lighting up the darkness.