Tuesday, December 15, 2015

On Anti-Muslim Rhetoric

 A couple of months ago in the face of statements that had already been made by many in the political arena that sought to stir up and focus hostility toward our Muslim brothers and sisters, the Silicon Valley Interreligious Council (SiVIC) joined with several other local and national organizations to speak out against the rhetoric and in favor of the values of our common humanity: mutual respect, understanding, and compassion.

Since then, things have only gotten worse. Too many are prepared to foster suspicion and fear not only against Syrian refugees fleeing death and destruction in their own lands, but against our neighbors, friends, and co-citizens here in the United States. Those who foster fear and suspicion are placing the blame on an entire segment of our own people for the actions of a few violent individuals claiming religious justification for their attacks.
We are distressed to hear how our Muslim friends and neighbors are living in fear, and even more distressed to hear of harassment, abuse, and attacks that have actually taken place. We stand together with them and join them in condemning those who would hijack Islam for their own purposes.

Violent individuals may use scripture or religion to shore up their hostility and to attempt to undergird their legitimacy and authority. These strategies have persuasive power because they touch on and manipulate deep psychological issues of authority, communal identity, relationships, and attitudes towards those named as “outsiders.” These very same potentially violent dynamics underlie current campaign rhetoric, as they provide a way for candidates to manipulate the truth in their efforts to win an election.

We are still nearly a year away from the election, and there is no reason to anticipate that the rhetoric of suspicion and fear will go away any time soon. We commit ourselves to upholding the human rights and freedom of all members of our society. We commit to continuing to reach out to those of different religious traditions and of no religious tradition. Our coming together is not something new, but an ever-growing and emphatic affirmation of who we are as a people.

Here in Silicon Valley we know that what makes for a great America is not division, suspicion, fear or demonizing of others. We are great because we stand together—people of diverse cultures, languages, traditions, and religions who work together to make the world better for all of us. Together we seek to build a more just and compassionate society.

NOTE: Two opportunities to join our Muslim communities this week:

Wednesday, December 16, 2015, 6:30 pm: Stand Together in Solidarity
Muslim Community Association, 3003 Scott Blvd., Santa Clara
Join the Muslim Community Association, South Bay Islamic Association, Evergreen Islamic Center, Blossom Valley Muslim Community Center and many Bay Area Mosques for a solidarity event with the Victims' families of the San Bernardino Shooting.  Sponsored by Bay Area Mosques Coalition.

Saturday, December 19, 2015, 1:00 – 4:00 pm, Eid Festival (Celebration of Muslim Holidays)
First United Methodist Church, 625 Hamilton Avenue, Palo Alto
A special opportunity to learn how Muslims celebrate their holidays. Three panelists from Islam, Christianity and Judaism will share how they celebrate their holidays, followed by Q & A and table sharing to encourage dialog and to learn about each other’s holiday traditions. Sponsored by American Muslim Voice.

Details on the SiVIC Events Calendar

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Breaking Bread Together and Promoting Dialogue Between the Two Faiths

Breaking Bread Together and Promoting Dialogue Between the Two Faiths
On Thursday July 2nd, Orange County chapter of Pacifica Institute had the pleasure of co-hosting an Iftar dinner with University United Methodist Church in Irvine with the aim of breaking bread together and promoting dialogue between the two faiths. The church congregation welcomed Pacifica members with big smiles and warm hearts. Conversations started right away as if both parties were long lost friends. Everyone was so immersed in conversation, Lead Pastor Paige Eaves had to wait awhile for everyone to be seated.
Pastor Paige began the evening with welcoming Pacifica members and touched upon the importance of coming together and learning from each other.
After Pastor Paige’s wonderful remarks, a Pacifica volunteer gave a short speech on the significance of the month of Ramadan for Muslims around the world. A short video on Ramadan was also projected to elucidate some terminology associated with Ramadan and further illustrate the importance and meaning of Ramadan.
With the end of the video, the sun was about to set so everyone was invited to help themselves to the food prepared and brought by Pacifica volunteers. Being the gracious and understanding of hosts the church congregation offered those who had been fasting all day to go ahead first. The delicious meal and warm conversations were followed by delightful dessert prepared by the Church congregation.
At the end of the night, Pastor Paige was kind enough to offer her guests a tour of the Church which included all five buildings. She mentioned the history of the Church as well as highlighting the different services they have, including Japanese and Korean. Pastor Paige emphasized how they shared their space with others and graciously offered space for Pacifica members to pray there also.
This was the first of hopefully many more joint events and dinners between University United Methodist Church and Pacifica Institute. In fact, both organizations are hoping to make Iftar dinners an annual tradition to build on the newly formed friendships.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Reflection: Family Iftar Dinner with Eruyan Family

On the 21st day of Ramadan Sunday January 5th, Cem and Ilknur Eruyan hosted an interfaith Iftar dinner. Pacifica Institute, invited individuals from all religious groups to join them at the dinner table to break the fast. The Iftar meal is served once the sunsets. This is considered the holiest time.

Ramadan is a social time for Muslims and is celebrated with elaborate meals. ‘Meal time’ was at sunset, around 8:02 that night. The first dish was lentil soup and water, followed by multiple dishes of baklava, salad, peppers with rice, and dates. After, the main dish of beef and mashed potatoes was served.

The purpose of fasting for Muslims is to help focus one’s thoughts to God during the day. Once food is served at the end of the day, one is able to meditate upon food and appreciate it more.

When the meal was finished Mr. Eruyan left the diner table to pray. He performed a series of chants to himself while bowing and standing. Mrs. Eruyan went to prepare the desert and Turkish tea.

The Eruyan’s house was decorated with traditional Islamic art.  Mr. Eruyan explained that one piece of art represented the coexistence of Muslims, Jews, and Catholics.  The picture depicted all three religions praying in their own religious buildings. This gave way to conversations about religion.

The guests compared religions to search for similarities. It was noted that Muslims and Catholics held many similar values and stories. For example, the story of Johan and the Whale are similar, as well as the belief in angels and the afterlife.

Guests shared their experience with intercultural interactions. One guests shared her experience in India. She recalled her friends warning her that there was excessive poverty to enjoy the country. However, she said once she reached outside her comfort zone she was able to find the beauty within the country. Ilknur then shared her experience in her children’s elementary school. She shared that some mothers would not talk to her because she wore a headdress. She chuckled the words, “I’m harmless!” She then said, once the mothers got to know her they became friends.

Many form their perceptions of Muslims off of media coverage on extremism. The family expressed that extremist actions are not religious. They emphasized the peaceful teachings of Islam.
“I could not imagine raising my children and teaching them acts of violence from extremism,” Mrs. Eruyan said.  

Pacifica Institute encourages non-Muslims to experience an Iftar dinner during Ramadan in the homes of other Muslims. The dinners are held with hopes to diminish cultural boundaries. Food, drink, and conversation symbolized intercultural tolerance and communication.  

For me, the experience was refreshing. The intentions of the Eruyan family were whole-hearted as they fed strangers at their table. However, we left not as strangers, but as friends.

Emily Quiles