On August 14, 2016, members of MERI Coalition group Muslims for Social Justice hosted a forum entitled Challenging Racism and Islamophobia. Around 70 people attended at the As-Salam Islamic Center in Raleigh.
From Huffington Post article:
Chapel Hill, North Carolina, has been recognized as a progressive town in North Carolina and the U.S. South. Home to one of the oldest public universities in the nation, this town has played an important role in the civil rights movement, the anti-war movement and other social justice movements.
The town of Chapel Hill welcomed Syrian refugees, in response to Gov. Patrick McCrory’s call to halt the future resettlement of Syrian refugees in North Carolina. Chapel Hill’s progressive character was on display during Memorial Day commemoration on May 30, 2016. Titled “Hearing the Voiceless: Refugees at Home and Abroad,” this event commemorated the sacrifices of the veterans, as well as, the suffering of the victims of wars, including the refugees.
The event on Monday displayed hard work by Jan, Wes and dozens of organizers ranging from organizations like Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom – Triangle, Veterans for Peace – NC Triangle Area, Charles M. Jones Peace and Justice Committee of the Community Church of Chapel Hill Unitarian Universalist, Balance and Accuracy in Journalism, Coalition for Peace with Justice, Peace and Social Concerns of Chapel Hill Friends Meeting, and Elders for Peace. The event featured proclamations by the towns of Chapel Hill and Carboro that honored the lives of men and women of the armed forces who sacrificed their lives. These proclamations also called for building a peaceful society and helping the victims of war, including the refugees fleeing from violence and the aftermath of war. Speeches were interspersed by cultural performances and eulogies for the victims of war. Triangle chapter of the Raging Grannies offered powerful performances to highlight the sufferings caused by wars and occupations.
The highlight of the event was the focus on refugees and a rise in Islamophobia. A relatively peaceful and progressive town of Chapel Hill became a global headline when three Muslim students were murdered there last year. Institutional forms of oppression against Muslims and other marginalized communities, including the LGBTQ community, have increased in North Carolina in the recent years. North Carolina General Assembly passed transphobic law, House Bill 2, earlier this year that also robs such municipal powers as increasing the minimum wage. North Carolina General Assembly passed anti-Sharia law in 2013. A version of that bill was tied to legislation on women’s reproductive health.
These developments have emphasized the need to build an intersectional movement that connects campaigns against Islamophobia, homophobia, racism, sexism, anti-immigrant attacks, anti-worker attacks and other oppressions.
Manzoor Cheema from the Movement to End Racism and Islamophobia (MERI) and Muslims for Social Justice, made a presentation titled “Challenging Racism and Islamophobia” at North Carolina Council of Churches meeting on June 7, 2016. This meeting took place at Congregational United Church of Christ in Greensboro, North Carolina. This talk explored racialized oppression against Muslims, African Americans, Jews, Japanese and other communities throughout the history; intersection between Islamophobia and other oppressions; and identified steps to confront this oppression.
About North Carolina Council of Churches:
The North Carolina Council of Churches was founded in 1935. We are a statewide ecumenical organization promoting Christian unity and working towards a more just society.
Our Mission Statement:
The Council enables denominations, congregations, and people of faith to individually and collectively impact our state on issues such as economic justice and development, human well-being, equality, compassion and peace, following the example and mission of Jesus Christ.
While the Council is itself overtly Christian, many of the committees and task groups are interfaith, including members from non-Christian faith communities. Several committees also include members of Christian denominations which are not part of the Council of Churches. Through this work, we live our motto: Strength in Unity, Peace through Justice.
Our members include 25 judicatories of 17 denominations and eight individual congregations. Across the state, our members have over 6,200 congregations with about 1.5 million congregants.
The North Carolina Council of Churches is not the local chapter of either the National or World Council of Churches. While we share the two goals of ecumenism and justice and our memberships are drawn from many of the same religious traditions, there are no structural connections between us. The North Carolina Council of Churches is actually thirteen years older than the World Council of Churches and fifteen years older than the National Council.
Learn more here:
I am heartbroken about this attack on my community, as most of those killed were LGBTQ people of color. The flyer for the event was of Black and Latina trans women and we have a national climate that targets these communities.
As a queer Muslim, I watched the story unfold in shock and grief. I’ve been dancing in those clubs. My friends have been in those clubs. It could have been any one of us. Those clubs are one of the few places we can feel free. As I’ve been trying to process and grieve this tragedy, I see Donald Trump using this tragedy to renew his call for a ban on Muslims. Before the bodies have been taken out of the building, before all their loved ones have been contacted, it’s already been used to justify hatred against Muslims. The killing of my people is being used to justify the killing of my people.
I am horrified that this tragedy is being used to call for restrictions of the civil liberties of Muslims. While the Muslim community may need to struggle with homophobia, so too does our country. In the first 10 weeks of 2016, over 200 pieces of anti-LGBT legislation were introduced in 34 states. The day after HB2 passed, I got arrested in front of the Governor’s mansion with other queer and trans people fighting that attack on our community. As my queer Tennessean friend Thomas Walker said, the queer people of color trapped in Pulse hid in whatever bathroom they thought they were most likely to survive in, not whichever one matched their birth certificate. The right-wing is passing bills attacking trans people in bathrooms while trans people hid from their killer in the Pulse bathroom to try and survive. There was a white guy that they caught in LA on his way to LA Pride with guns and ammo and bomb-making equipment. Like him, Omar Mateen was an American. Donald Trump may say he’s foreign-born, but he was born in New York. He was a fan of the NYPD. He is a home-grown criminal. America as a whole needs to struggle with hatred and fear of LGBTQ people.
Mateen was a domestic abuser, like another killer, George Zimmerman. Despite this, he had no criminal record. As we’ve seen in the Stanford rape case, toxic masculinity is an American problem. He was born and socialized in America. He internalized these lessons.
Mass shootings are an American problem, not an “over there” problem. There have been 136 instances of mass shooting in 2016 alone. More than 400,000 people have died from gun violence in the past 10 years. The overwhelming majority of shooting deaths in the United States are committed by non-Muslims. This is an American problem, when shooters like Omar Mateen have access to buying assault style rifles. No one should have access to buy these guns that are often used in mass shootings. We need common sense gun control in this country.
At Movement to End Racism and Islamophobia (MERI), we believe in building an intersectional movement to fight all forms of oppression – homophobia, Islamophobia, racism, sexism, attacks on workers, attacks on immigrants and all other oppressions. Hatred will win only if we are divided by fear. We want to build a powerful movement based on love and liberation for all people. We call upon people from all backgrounds to join our network and help us build a more loving and just community.
(From left) Noah Rubin-Blose, Salma Mirza and Jade Brooks, during a protest against House Bill 2 in front on North Carolina Executive Mansion on March 24, 2016.
Photo by Matthew Lenard
Manzoor Cheema from the Movement to End Racism and Islamophobia spoke on the topic of “Challenging Racism and Islamophobia” at Congregational Church of Pinehurst, UCC, on May 22, 2016. Congregants from the church, Moore County NAACP members, grassroots activists and general community members attended the talk. This talk explored the roots of Islamophobia; how Islamophobia is connected to anti-Black racism, homophobia, anti-semitism and other forms of oppression; and how to build an intersectional movement to defeat all these oppressions. The talk was followed by Q&A session and photo-op with a banner titled “United Against Racism and Islamophobia”.
About the Congregational Church of Pinehurst
“The Congregational Church of Pinehurst, UCC an official ONA church, celebrates the human spirit by welcoming all to its family of faith.
At Congregational Church of Pinehurst we seek to share God’s love and justice with the world. To that end we receive with respect, and nurture with intention, the gifts of all who come to us on their journey of faith. We also seek to be inclusive of all human diversity in the life of our church.
Our church’s energy is constantly renewed by Pastor Brent Bissette’s challenging and uplifting sermons, the beautiful music of our choir, our noisy and laughter-filled fellowship after church and the many mission-related community programs our members lead.
“The Congregational Church of Pinehurst, UCC, is called to follow Jesus’ way of love, justice and inclusion. We do this by:
• facing issues of faith openly and honestly
• nourishing the spirit of God within us all
• creating a caring community
• celebrating human diversity
• respecting the wisdom of other religious traditions
• working with others to create a just society
• promoting the sustainable and equitable use of the earth’s resources
We invite all to join us regardless of age, race, gender or sexual orientation.”
Learn more here:
Manzoor Cheema from Movement to End Racism and Islamophobia made two presentations titled “Challenging Racism and Islamophobia” at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Social Work on May 20, 2016. These presentations were part of Field Instructors’ and Task Supervisors’ Appreciation Conference. These presentations explored the roots of Islamophobia; how it impacts Muslim students, patients, workers, immigrants and general community members; and tools social workers could use when dealign with Muslim clients.
About the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Social Work
Founded in 1920, the UNC School of Social Work is consistently ranked as one of the best in the nation. Through innovative research that improves practice and enhances education, we search for solutions to the challenges of poverty, mental health, violence, and substance abuse. We prepare social workers to make a difference.
We are a graduate school offering M.S.W. and Ph.D. degrees.
Our School has a tradition of excellence in producing practitioners and leaders who are committed to public, private and nonprofit services and to the development of policies and programs that strengthen individuals, families, groups, communities and organizations.
Across the country and internationally, alumni serve in a variety of direct practice and management positions. Our graduates work with racially diverse communities in rural, urban and suburban settings. They assist children and the elderly and those who are ill or challenged by mental and physical disabilities. Our graduates build on the strengths inherent in at-risk populations and bring compassion and wisdom to the most intransigent social problems.
Our faculty members are respected and recognized scholars and entrepreneurs who have produced a wide range of innovative research, including studies that address some of the most pressing problems of addiction, aging, at-risk youth, poverty, healthcare, family violence and affordable housing. The School has grown to include 27 tenured and tenure-track faculty members – seven of whom are chaired or distinguished professors – and more than 65 clinical and research faculty members. In 2011, social work faculty received more than $12 million in grant funding.
Learn more at:
Southwest Airlines shareholder meeting took place in Chicago on May 18, 2016. This meeting was confronted by a protest by pilots, staff and mechanics for unfair work conditions. Southwest Airlines also has a history of discrimination against Muslims (see links below). Members of Movement to End Racism and Islamophobia, the Center for New Community, Jewish Voice for Peace – Chicago and Muslim American Society – Chicago joined the protest.
Reports of anti-Muslim treatment at Southwest Airlines
“Khairuldeen Makhzoomi, a senior at the university, was removed from the Oakland-bound flight from Los Angeles international airport on 6 April. Makhzoomi, 26, was born in Iraq, and his family fled the country in 2002 after his diplomat father was killed by Saddam Hussein’s regime.
According to Makhzoomi, he was removed from the flight and questioned by the FBI after another passenger informed airline staff about his phone conversation, which was to his uncle in Baghdad. He ended the call with the word “inshallah”, meaning “God willing”, and said the passenger thought he used the word “shahid”, meaning “martyr”, during the conversation.”
“”Khalil, 29 and Ayyad, 28, moved to Philadelphia from Palestine 15 years ago. Khalil now owns the Feltonville pizza shop — Pizza Point — that gave him his first job. The friends were in Chicago visiting each other’s families and met back at the airport Wednesday night to take the same flight home. The gate agent told them apologetically they wouldn’t be allowed to board because a passenger was afraid to fly with them after overhearing the men speaking Arabic.””
“A hijab-clad Muslim woman in the US was reportedly removed from a Southwest Airlines plane after she asked for switching seats with a flight attendant saying she “did not feel comfortable” with the passenger. Hakima Abdulle, a Muslim woman from Maryland, said she was removed from the flight from Chicago to Seattle “without any credible explanation”.
Abdulle said she wanted to switch seats but instead, she ended up being removed from the flight. This was the second such incident involving the carrier this month after an Iraqi man claimed that he was removed from a Southwest Airlines plane after a fellow passenger heard him speaking in Arabic.”
Report from protest against Southwest Airlines
“From North Carolina, Manzoor Cheema, a member of the Movement to End Racism and Islamophobia, made the connection between the protestors and the pilots, flight attendants, and mechanics picketing for better pay, benefits, and working conditions.
“Islamophobia is a product of a crisis in America where groups are marginalized and scapegoated to distract from labor issues and worker’s rights. It’s long been a “southern strategy” to divide labor and worker progressives. While Muslims are being kicked off planes, the corporation is abusing its workers. Merging these forces fighting against anti-Muslim profiling and for workers’ rights is important to achieve real change.””
Anti-Muslim speaker, Bill Warner, was invited to speak at Pinehurst Country Club on May 15, 2016. He was invited by Moore Country Republican Women. Bill Warner has portrayed Muslim women wearing a hijab to KKK members donning clan outfit, criticized Muslim refugees’ resettlement in the USA, warned that Muslims can be “friendly” but never a “friend” and proposed a “war on Islam” as a solution to the “problem of Islam”. His virulence against Islam and Muslims has shocked people from all backgrounds.
There were multiple responses to Warner’s visit by community members in Moore County and beyond. An op-ed was published in Moore County based The Pilot, that challenged the visit by Warner:
“I’m disappointed to see that an organization such as the Moore Republican Women’s group is supporting such hate speech despite listing on the front page of their website that one of their core beliefs is “equal rights, equal justice and equal opportunity for all, regardless of race, creed, sex, age or disability.” How is hosting this controversial speaker holding true to your core Republican values when you are intentionally denigrating an entire group of people for their religious beliefs?”
Moore County residents Paula Irene DeCarlo and Yasemin Kan organized a grassroots protest in response to Warner’s visit to Pinehurst on May 15th. They were joined with friends from different cities who protested outside the venue of speech. Protesters held signs that said “No to Racism, No to Islamophobia”, “To Learn the Truth of Islam, Ask a Muslim”. Raised as a Catholic, Paula emphasized the need to promote peaceful coexistence through learning, art and creativity. Her son produces music to confront bigotry and racism. Yasemin, a native of Turkey, is dedicated to challenge demonizing and dehumanizing of Muslims. Their actions have inspired many members to speak up against Islamophobia.
Moore County Democrats organized a talk titled “Challenging Racism and Islamophobia” on May 16, 2016. Manzoor Cheema from the Movement to End Racism and Islamophobia spoke at the event. This was a non-partisan talk open to people of all or no affiliations. Participants reflected a great diversity, ranging from educators, financial professionals, artists, military veterans and public officials. The Q&A session dealt with many questions about Islam; connections between Islamophobia, anti-Black racism and other forms of oppression; and how to challenge these oppressions.
Raleigh African American youth Akiel Denkins was killed by a Raleigh police officer on February 29, 2016. Raleigh citizens have demanded justice for Denkins murder and called for accountability of the law enforcement. Raleigh based PACT (Police Accountability Community Taskforce) has demanded for citizen accountability board and other fundamental changes in the law enforcement. On May 3rd, citizens and activists attended Raleigh City Council meeting and submitted their demands. PACT members and allies demanded that Raleigh City Council:
1) Recognize that data and residents’ experiences demonstrate a systemic pattern of biased policing practices
2) Remaining council people meet with representatives of the coalition before the Council’s June 7 meeting
3) Ensure that city staff provides a response by May 24 to the recommendations previously submitted
4) Make police accountability reforms a public hearing agenda item at the June 7 City Council meeting
Here is an article from the News and Observer that covered May 3rd Raleigh City Council meeting:
“”There are two Raleighs, they said.
There’s one where white people live in comfort and are left alone by law enforcement and one where poor black people regularly endure questionable police tactics, according to some Southeast Raleigh residents.
More than two dozen people showed up to the City Council meeting Tuesday night urging Raleigh to adopt several changes to its police department, from instituting an independent panel that could review controversial police actions to de-emphasizing enforcement of marijuana laws.”
“Denkins’ mother, Rolanda Byrd, stood beside Akiba Byrd, a leader of Raleigh PACT, as he addressed the council Tuesday night.
“This mother is standing here before you right now holding a picture of her slain child for no other reason than he was evading arrest. That is not a death sentence,” Akiba Byrd said.””
“RESIDENTS WANT MORE ACCOUNTABILITY FOR RALEIGH POLICE
A group known as the Raleigh Police Accountability Community Taskforce is asking for the City of Raleigh to adopt eight changes that they say would improve local police practices, which they say are sometimes racist and overbearing. The group’s statement says it is requesting:
1. An independent oversight board that has the power to investigate, subpoena and discipline police when there is injustice.
2. Strengthening of the department’s anti-bias policing police with regular checks on officers’ stop-and-search data.
3. Improvement of officer training and an expansion of Crisis Intervention Training.
4. An end what the group called the bias in stops and searches by requiring written consent-to-search forms.
5. Placing a lower priority on marijuana enforcement.
6. A body-worn camera program that protects people’s rights, privacy and access.
7. An internship program to recruit and retain officers of color.
8. Increased opportunities for positive relationships between community and police.”
Here are pictures from Raleigh City Council meeting
May Day is recognized as International Workers Day around the world. May Day rally was organized by Durham Solidarity Center on Monday, May 2nd, in downtown Durham. This rally was sponsored by twenty organizations, including by Movement to End Racism and Islamophobia. This rally brought together people from workers rights, anti-racism, LGBT rights, anti-Islamophobia, immigrant rights and other movements.
Excerpts from the joint statement, posted on Durham Solidarity Center website:
“On May 2, we invite everyone to join us in Durham to center working-class struggles and the multi-racial, multi-gendered, and multinational working class movement.
The continued mistreatment of workers and working class people must be met with resistance and demands coupled with action. Without justice, there is no peace. We stand in solidarity with international movements to resist worker oppression, imperialism, racism, and Islamophobia. Islamophobia is product of US wars and occupations abroad, and surveillance/institutional repression in the USA. The US South is home to more than 50% military bases in the USA. US law enforcement has entrapped Muslims throughout the country, including in local communities like Raleigh.
We stand opposed to anti-worker, anti-environment, so-called free trade agreements like the Trans Pacific Partnership. We believe that intersecting oppressions of the working class — transphobia, homophobia, racism, patriarchy, xenophobia, ethnocentrism and plain bigotry– must be fought alongside and within the class struggle.
The economy of the U.S. South was built on theft of native land, genocide of native peoples, and centuries of the enslavement of Black people kidnapped from the African continent. Vestiges of this history remain intact today in “right-to-work laws,” the Jim Crow-era ban on collective bargaining for public workers, poverty wages, and the relentless attacks on workers and oppressed peoples’ ability to organize.
Now more than ever, we must build unions, workplace organizations, and other institutions to fight back and build a new economy that serves the needs of the 99%, not the 1%.
People are rising up and fighting back – from the #BlackLivesMatter movement against racist mass incarceration and police murders to the #Not1More movement and fight to end raids and deportations of immigrant families. From the massive statewide uprising against HB2’s attacks on the LGBTQ community to the Southern Workers Assembly and the work to build a rank-and-file workers’ movement that is united with the broader social movements in the U.S. South. In spite of daily attacks, our movements have made this clear: an injury to one is an injury to all!
This May Day, we will take to the streets to celebrate our victories, ready ourselves for future struggles, and send a message to the masses and the powers that be, that we are ready, and we are coming. We carry the spirit of Che Guevara, Fannie Lou Hamer, Assata Shakur, Ella Baker, Bayard Rustin, Mother Jones, and all of those who stood for worker’s rights on the frontlines of the class struggle and struggle against all oppression.
Durham Solidarity Center
Durham for All
Black Workers for Justice
UE 150 Public Sector Workers Union
Durham Beyond Policing
Duke Students and Workers in Solidarity
Raise Up for $15
Muslims for Social Justice
Movement to End Racism and Islamophobia
Si a las licensias
Southern Vision Alliance
Faculty Forward Network
Triangle Green Party
Jewish Voices for Peace
ICE Out of NC
Witness for Peace – SE Chapter
Southeast Immigrants Rights Network
Triangle SURJ (Standing Up for Racial Justice)
Workers World Party”
Video from May Day rally: