Saturday, March 12, 2016

"If It Bleeds, It Leads"

One of my dear friends, University of Maryland Professor Dr. Sahar Khamis, is an expert on Arab and Muslim media.  And the title of this blogpost is one of her favorite sayings.   She is acutely aware of how difficult it is for Arab and Muslim people to change their public image in this nation because, quite simply, the mass media isn’t terribly interested in acts of kindness and heroism.  Our “news” outlets would much rather cover acts of violence and narcissism instead. 

When I think of Donald Trump’s proposed Muslim ban, I think about the insanity of keeping out of this country Sahar’s mother and sister, both of whom I’ve been privileged to meet during the past couple of years.  They are incredibly warm, peace-loving people, but because they are Egyptian Muslims, our GOP front runner would deny them the opportunity to visit Sahar and attend our Jewish-Islamic dialogue events – you know, the same kind of events that the American media is not interested in covering because nobody is throwing any punches, cursing, burning down stores, or firing gunshots. 

Do you want to hear about the other side of Islam?  Or stated differently, would you like to see for yourself how humane, considerate and courageous Muslims can be?   Just watch this video.   Please.   It was filmed this past Thursday night at one of my favorite mosques, the Muslim Community Center in Silver Spring. The event, which I was privileged to attend, was all about remembering the Holocaust and the fact that a group of European Muslims courageously risked their lives to save those of Jews.  The speaker in this video is a Jewish Holocaust survivor who is alive today only because the Muslim community of Albania saved her and her family from the Nazis.  After you watch her speak, I would suggest reflecting for a moment on what it means that an American mosque is proud to give her the forum to tell this story. 

There is so much to love about Islam generally and the American Muslim community in particular.    Experience it for yourself.  Join the interfaith movement as an active participant.

And remember: it is not enough to criticize Trump.  We have to actively defy him with our actions, not merely our words.   No, I’m not talking about inciting violence by heckling at rallies.  That’s just feeding his narrative – and giving the media more fuel for their fire.  I’m talking about building a movement that is centered on embracing the “other.”   Your work may not be considered “newsworthy” by MSNBC and CNN, but that shouldn’t stop us.  If the Muslims of Albania weren’t scared of the Nazis, we interfaith activists shouldn’t be scared of being irrelevant.  Instead, like those Muslim heroes of the 1940s, we should concern ourselves with right, wrong, and the imperative of action.

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