Some 20 Jewish, Christian and Muslim clergy gathered in front of the Masjid Muhammad mosque on 4th Street in Washington Friday afternoon as an act of solidarity in response to inflammatory rhetoric from President-elect Donald Trump and acts of hate that have occurred in the days since the election.
“I am here as a Jew, as a rabbi, as a leader of faith in my community,” said Rabbi Esther Lederman, director for communities of practice at the Union for Reform Judaism.
“We are here because an assault on Muslim Americans because of their faith is an assault on Americans of all faiths and no faith,” she said. “We are here because religious discrimination is incompatible with our great nation and we will stand with our Muslim friends and neighbors when they are attacked in word or deed.”
Lederman and the majority of the speakers, who included Muslims and Christians, discussed the vitriol that Muslims have experienced, fueled in part by calls Trump has made to require Muslims to register based on their religion. She told the crowd of reporters gathered around the mosque that she will oppose “any policies that single out people simply because of their faith.”
“We are here to hold President-elect Donald Trump to the words of his acceptance speech, when he pledged that he will be president for all Americans, and we urge him to respect and protect the religious freedom of every person in this nation, citizen or not,” she said.
Kristin Garrity Sekerci, program coordinator for Georgetown University’s Bridge Initiative, which aims to studies Islamophobia, described three positive interactions with strangers she has had in the last 10 days. The first came when she was walking home from work and a white, middle-aged woman came up to her in tears and said she was sorry.
“I thanked her, I wondered why it was not my tears that flowed but hers,” said Sekerci, who is Muslim.
Sekerci also recalled a cashier at Target, a black woman who wore a hijab, and the friendly banter they exchanged. “She told me she decided to keep wearing a hijab today. I hope the customers overheard.”
The final interaction was with someone she described as a “brown millennial” on a bike, who flashed a thumbs up sign at her.
The final speaker at the gathering, the Interfaith Alliance’s Rabbi Jack Moline, connected the struggle Muslims face with an anti-Semitic incident that occurred 25 years ago when the newly-opened Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia was defaced.
“It didn’t take more than 24 hours for the community to come together and stand together in affirmation of the presence of the Jewish community, and a disapproval of what had been done in the name of some few who hate,” he said.
Moline said his daughter, then 5, asked why someone would want to hurt people.
“Twenty-five years later I can still feel the fury that welled up inside of me,” he said. “That my daughter’s innocence was stolen by cowards with a can of spray paint.”
Moline said if Trump does institute a registry of Muslims, he, Moline, will “be the first in line to say, ‘I am a Muslim.’”