Hate crimes and Islamophobia are on the rise as a result of pundits and politicians habitually berating Islam in a very tense electoral cycle. Countering this are actors promoting religious tolerance, interfaith relations, and pluralist attitudes. In one such case, residents of Garden City in Kansas took part in a solidarity rally to support their Muslim neighbors who have faced hateful intentions.
Recently, US law enforcement agencies uncovered a domestic terrorism plot to bomb an apartment complex and mosque where Somali immigrant families lived and worshiped in Garden City, Kansas.
After hearing about the plot Reverend Denise Pass, Pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Garden City organized a rally in support of the local Muslim community.
“When I heard this tragic news, it came to my mind that we – as members of this community and as Christians – should support and protect the local Muslim community,” Pass said in a statement to Al Jazeera.
In light of the intended actions of the three men, Reverend Pass explained that although the area is conservative, the community was not racist, anti-immigrant or Islamophobic . She said: “The actions of few racist individuals should not be taken to represent the whole community, just as the Muslim community should not negatively labeled or held responsible for the actions of the very few terrorists who happened to be Muslims.”
Supporting her claim were community members who participated in the rally, which took place around the targeted apartment complex.
President of the African Community Center in Garden City, Mural Naleye reported that the community was “heartened by the overwhelming support from the American community in Garden City”.
Such support is even more significant as refugees and asylum seekers make up most of the 1,000 member Muslim community. Coming from Somalia, Ethiopia and Sudan, many of the immigrants do not speak English, which makes them isolated from the rest of the surrounding community and more vulnerable to hate-attacks.
Echoing this Pass said: “If I was a Muslim in the US today, I would feel very vulnerable and very threatened, that’s why it is important for us to make a stance here, because we are all God’s children.”
Reverend Denise Pass is just one among a plethora of efforts to support an inclusive interfaith environment in face of heightened tensions. In multiple instances of hate and vandalism towards Muslim mosques across the US, Christian leaders and their congregations have gathered to show support for their Muslim neighbors. Such acts of solidarity in an interfaith community matter now more than ever.
This article was written by Natalie Gallagher