This morning, the United States held its annual remembrance of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States. Our hearts remain with the victims of the terrorist attacks as we mourn the loss of life and the blow to our nation’s sense of security. Children who were born in 2001 have never known a world in which the United States did not have a significant military presence in Afghanistan, the longest running war in our nation’s history.
In dozens of recent conversations with Muslim, Sikh and immigrant friends, colleagues and OneAmerica members who were in the United States on 9/11, it’s remarkable how similar their reflections have been, particularly since the election of President Donald Trump in November 2016. As so many members of our communities felt the shock and impact of the terrorist attacks on their adopted home, their stories also reflected the shock of the convulsive backlash and suspicion of a nation that withdrew into itself and reconsidered the fundamental question of who belonged here.
OneAmerica was founded as Hate Free Zone in the days following 9/11 as a community response to that backlash, defending vulnerable Muslim and Sikh communities against harassment and hate crimes and fighting to protect basic civil liberties… fights that have grown even more urgent today. Trump’s presidential campaign and his rhetoric since entering office, continue to pound a drumbeat that for a time had been pushed to the margins of American politics: that there is a war within our own nation between America and Islam. Like the Border Wall, Trump’s loudest applause lines aggressively single out the American Muslim community as a threat, as incompatible with American values.
And that aggressive rhetoric is having an impact, reigniting an anti-Muslim movement in the United States. This summer, news organizations reported on a spike in anti-Muslim hate crimes that have persisted since the President’s election last November. The Southern Poverty Law Center is actively tracking 21 hate groups in Washington State alone, including five anti-Muslim organizations.
The largest national Islamophobic organization in the United States, ACT for America, was set to hold a day of anti-Muslim protests on September 9 in advance of 9/11, including one in Seattle, WA. But following the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, VA last month, ACT decided to cancel these events. For Muslim community members and their allies, the 9/9 protests were an alarming development following on an anti-Muslim protest that racist activists had organized on June 10th in Seattle, days after a white supremacist in Portland killed two men who had attempted to intervene when the supremacist had harassed two young women, one of them wearing hijab, on a light rail train.
Today, the criminal case against that white supremacist continues in Portland, but so does the fall-out from that protest here in Seattle. Muslim community members and organizations are still waiting on a full accounting for Seattle Police Department actions at that protest, as litigation moves forward against the City.
With valued partners like CAIR-Washington, MAPS American Muslim Empowerment Network, the Church Council of Greater Seattle, the Faith Action Network and Americans for Refugees and Immigrants (an organization that OneAmerica helped start), and the growing political strength of Muslim community organizations across Washington State, there is reason for hope. Together, we’re organizing in Muslim communities, educating the broader public about the contributions of Muslim Americans, and mobilizing our communities and our allies into action. Together, we’re fighting for a vision of America that embraces all of our communities, that rejects prejudice and racialized stereotypes of Islam. For OneAmerica, this vision imagines a peaceful world where every person’s human rights and dignity are respected, where communities appreciate differences and stand together for justice and equality, and where each person contributes to the common good.
This 9/11, as we reflect on those who lost their lives to terrorism, we’ll also reflect on the struggle for liberty, dignity and justice for all of our communities and the difficult work ahead to ensure that American will live up to its promise and its values.
Looming over our fight for justice is a highly anticipated Supreme Court hearing scheduled to take place on October 10th on the constitutionality and legality of the President’s Muslim Travel Ban. A recent ruling in the Unites States 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Seattle narrowed the scope of the Administration’s interpretation of a preliminary ruling by the Supreme Court on the Travel Ban earlier this summer. The Justice Department will appeal. But the action that the Supreme Court may take later this year could shape the extent to which fear, discrimination and prejudice may guide Presidential authority for years to come. Whatever the outcome, it will fall to Americans of good will to mobilize and act to ensure that this President, and the fear and hatred of the movement that fueled his campaign, will not succeed.