A little background: On Wednesday before the September 11 rally at Hennepin and Lagoon, the speaker at People of Faith Peacemakers (St. Martin’s Table) was Shaun Duvall, Director of Puentes/Bridges. She works with Midwestern dairy farmers and their Latino employees in a cross-cultural program to bring the farmers to Mexico to meet their employees’ families, learn to know their communities, and generally deepen cultural understandings across borders (http://www.puentesbridges.org/). This first-of-a-kind program earned Shaun the highest citizen award from the Mexican government.
During the announcement time before the speaker was introduced, I mentioned the upcoming rally, which WAMM endorsed. Shaun responded, “You should carry the Quran at your march!” I was startled – my march? (Why me?) The suggestion raised a number of questions and discomforts, which revisited me at 3 a.m. the next couple of nights.
I admit my first worry was a negative – if not racist – reaction. I’m not a Muslim. What are the protocols? Will I, a woman, be seen as mocking the culture’s holy book? Then, what is the appropriate way to carry another religion’s sacred scripture – openly?
A person dear to me questioned whether the action would be provocative. The context was, of course, hate-monger Terry Jones and his tiny but truly inflammatory followers – inflammatory because the story became mainstream. Along with the controversy over building a mosque at Ground Zero, the story was part of a media blitz last week of speculation about increasing racial tensions, from talk radio to PBS. Ignoring the idiocy didn’t seem to be an option.
So – I am not a Muslim; that is part of the point. As a Christian, a member of one of the Abrahamic faiths, I wish to honor another faith’s Book. I hear the charge to love God and one another as the first and greatest commandment; I wish to reach out to Muslim sisters and brothers. As a woman, I am uncomfortable with those parts of the Quran and the Judeo-Christian scriptures that are violent and patriarchal; but I believe that deeper messages reflected in those holy books speak of humanity’s longings for peace and God’s call to peacemaking.
I am a citizen of the United States entitled and enjoined to follow the Constitution, which protects freedom of religion and speech. As Michael Moore wrote, “I want [the mosque] built on Ground Zero. Why? Because I believe in an America that protects those who are the victims of hate and prejudice (OpenMike 9/11/10).”
Finally, I am a member of Women Against Military Madness, whose mission is to dismantle militarism, exploitation, and oppression [three pillars of Empire]. The current Islamophobia feeds the militarism that is killing us.