Our fifth Interfaith Meeting included representatives of various local religious groups and communities of conscience. The Interfaith Group meets regularly to discuss current issues in the community from a faith and social justice-based perspective. The group focuses on improving interfaith and cultural exchange opportunities by imagining and planning community activities and service initiatives, and by supporting organizations facing discrimination.
At our last meeting, much of the discussion focused on the Boston Marathon bombing trial and associated Islamophobia that has crept into Boston since the bombings. The group agreed that informing our larger community about the nature of Islamophobic ads and regional hate crimes was a priority. We discussed recent advertisements in the Boston Metro impugning the Islamic Society of Boston and insinuating that local Muslim leaders are violent simply by associating with or supporting this mosque. To be clear, this is my local mosque and it has the support of the City of Cambridge, the interfaith community, the neighborhood, and me. It is a longstanding American-Muslim institution with deep roots.
Unfortunately, this hate campaign is not an isolated incident; the group publishing the advertisements has been libeling the Muslim in Cambridge and Boston for years. This type of targeted profiling of Muslims promotes feelings of prejudice and has dangerous repercussions for the Muslim and non-Muslim community alike. Nicole Mossalam, the Executive Director of the Islamic Society of Boston, has publicly elaborated on the increase in extreme attitudes and violence towards the local Muslim community. In a recent and particularly disturbing example of anti-Muslim behavior, a flyer distributed in Revere read: "All Muslims will be killed in America and Europe, and Muhammad the Prophet's image will be burned unless ISIS surrenders within 72 hours!” This behavior is hurtful and divides our communities.
Over the next several months, the Interfaith Group will focus on recruiting more community members. At our last meeting, attendees highlighted the need for more shared spaces where religious groups and communities of faith can gather, as well as the necessity for the interfaith community to work together to respond to violence. The group unanimously agreed that organizing a forum could help build connections amongst various faiths in Cambridge. We suggest calling the forum 'Building Community in the Face of Violence: Perspectives on Faith and Violence'.
To move forward with this important work, the interfaith group needs as many community representatives as possible. We will only be able to combat the extremist sentiments currently gaining traction in Boston with the help of all faiths and all neighbors. The Interfaith Group invites you to join our mailing list and keep in touch. We'll let you know about upcoming meetings, events, and opportunities to be included in the planning process.