Is it coincidence or a cosmic intention that this year Eid may fall on the anniversary of the horrific attacks on America by Al-Qaeda? The end of fasting during the month of Ramadan (Eid ul-Fitr) may be celebrated on September 11th, based on the first spotting of the moon for the tenth month of the Islamic calendar. Muslims believe Ramadan to be an auspicious month for the revelations of God to humankind (Wikipedia). The convergence of Eid with the anniversary of 9/11 is being used as an excuse to terrorize Muslims in America. Just this morning, Lynne read me an article from the New York Times (New York Times ) about a church in Florida that will make a bonfire of Korans on the anniversary of 9/11.
The women who are afraid to wear their traditional headscarves this week, the people who are frightened by media frenzy about Muslims celebrating on the anniversary of 9/11, the families who are worried about violence against the Muslim community but are telling themselves that this will blow over are our neighbors, the Muslim family across the street. Monem and Iman invited us to break their fast (Iftar) with them and their three delightful children last year during Ramadan, and this year invited us to Iftar again to raise money for victims of the Pakistani floods. Iman shared stories of the fear in the Muslim community to celebrate Eid this year.
I, who have taken the stories of the Nazis and the Holocaust to heart and have always feared the coming of that type of hatred and violence towards gay people, now witness the effect of that energy on Muslims in America. Ursula Hegi, in "Stone from the River" portrayed life in a small German city during the rise of the Nazi movement. Many younger Jewish people fled as conditions worsened, yet she portrays many older Jewish people putting up with the increasingly oppressive limitations and degradations of their lives, rather than trying to escape, telling themselves that the time of oppression would pass. I was startled last night to hear Iman, our Muslim neighbor, mimic that same point of view. "It will blow over," she said, after describing the many fears expressed by her Facebook friends.
Lynne and I, as lesbians, have increasingly integrated ourselves with our neighbors and coworkers, a process that involves some risk and requires us to overcome our own worries of humiliation or rejection. We would like to be "neighbors", not "gay neighbors". We have been affirmed by the welcome that we have received from all our new neighbors in Bellingham. Yet in my mind is the apprehension that these times of openness may be temporary. I have imagined future scenes where we are rounded up and taken away, and our non-gay neighbors, paralyzed with fear themselves, tearfully reflect that we were kind and friendly people.
Here is my reality check. We are not the only minority in Bellingham, in Washington, in America with a tentative foothold on living peaceful, mainstream lives. Iman introduced herself as president of the Bellingham Association of Muslims, and then went on to joke "There are three of us here in Bellingham." She and her family, her American Muslim friends and the larger American Muslim community, are more afraid of attacks from fellow Americans today then they were on September 12, 2001.
Here comes alive the famous poem "When the Nazis Came For Me", first spoken in 1946 by Pastor Martin Niemöller,
When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist..
When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.
When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.
When they came for the Jews,
I didn't speak up,
because I wasn't a Jew.
When they came for me,
there was no-one left
to speak out.
This week is our chance to speak out, to support our Muslim neighbors.
You can order a DVD of “A Wing and A Prayer, An American Muslim Learns to Fly”, the movie that tells Monem and Iman’s story at http://www.peacefulcommunications.org/ .