Despite the intense and suspicious gaze currently focused on American Muslims, we are still struggling to make ourselves relevant to the burning issues of our time and place. Unless we engage in these issues, as a community of principles and not just one of opportunism, we will continue to make it easy for those who would marginalize us in the public discourse and in the popular image.
Perhaps there are few issues more burning than the broken immigration system of our nation. The genuine complexity of this longstanding issue is being combined with political and social demagoguery to marginalize, even criminalize large segments of the Latino immigrant community. Given (i) that a large part of the Muslim American community is immigrant and (ii) the obvious connections between the images and policies used for marginalizing Latinos in immigration- and Muslims in national security-related debates, one would have hoped for a quick and firm recognition of where our interests, not to mention our principles, lie in the immigration debate. In fact, actions not just words of solidarity would have been expected by now. Sadly, however, the American Muslim community continues to struggle not only in finding its voice but even is grasping the dangers (of isolation) and the opportunities (of solidarity) that confront it here.
IMAN and its partners in the United Congress of Community and Religious Organizations (UCCRO) have long been speaking with a clear voice and acting on this issue. For us, the rights of all immigrants to basic human dignity and of keeping their families together are basic human rights that must be guaranteed. As such, this “caravan of solidarity’ headed down to Phoenix, Arizona is part of an ongoing commitment to not letting our Latino brothers and sisters be isolated and scapegoated for our impractical and broken economic and immigration systems.
As I look forward to the next few days, of working with our Latino/a brothers and sisters and initiating ties of solidarity, I am both very excited and a little nervous. Such is the fate, I am reminding myself, of those who dare to act and dream to build bridges to new places.