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5 Reflections on London and Virginia

Flowers left in memory for the victims of the attack at Finsbury Park Mosque. June 2017 | Getty Images

Dear friends,

Once again, on a Monday morning, we awoke to news that made us stop in our tracks— terrorism and the slaughter of a 17-year-old girl on Father’s Day because she was Muslim. Again, we mourn and extend our condolences to the families, friends and communities who are suffering these losses most directly.

Below are my 5 Reflections on London and Virginia:

  1. I am heartsick. But I also realize that the volume of the horrors has a numbing effect on too many of us.
  2. As numbness to the deaths sets in, fear is escalating at the randomness with which terrorism and hate crimes are becoming a daily norm.
  3. Terrorism is not limited to any one group or ethnicity. Just look at the perpetrators of these two crimes and you’ll see what I mean.
  4. Terrorism targets all of us— including Muslims.
  5. And the question… How is it that London and Virginia grab at our heartstrings— but we barely notice atrocities in Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt, Somalia, India, etc.?

With great sorrow,

Joyce S. Dubensky
Tanenbaum CEO

Violence continues against Egypt’s Coptic Christians

Egyptian Coptic Christians march on May 26, 2017, following a funeral for victims of Friday’s terror attack. | NBC News

Dear Friends,

This week, as Tanenbaum celebrated 25 years of combating religious hate, I felt compelled to begin our anniversary Gala with a moment of silence for the victims, their families and the people of Manchester. It is days later and the assault on Coptic Christians in Egypt has continued; this time a bus filled with men, women and children, traveling to a monastery in Minya province, were ambushed by gunmen in uniform.

The attacks in Manchester and Egypt were both claimed by ISIS – and Egypt has responded to this latest terror attack with airstrikes on training camps in Libya. Egypt’s Coptic community has suffered ongoing violence and terrorism since 2011, including the Palm Sunday church bombing in April.

Today, we stand with the Coptic Community in Egypt, with Christians worldwide, and with our global community, from all traditions and none.

We have a responsibility to bear witness and to do everything we can to stop hatred that fuels violence and terrorism. At times we may feel powerless, yet we have real impact as we practice respect and speak up for what is right in our own communities. This is a time to let our hearts be informed by real facts. Because if we don’t, we risk losing our own humanity to profound sadness and fear.

Joyce S. Dubensky,
Tanenbaum CEO

P.S. There are things you can do today. Learn more about the ancient Coptic Community in Egypt; Check out what is happening in the Middle East with Christian persecution; and support those working with refugees and to fight for justice.

Swastikas, Headscarves & Beatings

Dear Friends,

Over the past week, Tanenbaum’s phones have been ringing off the hook. Friends, partners and strangers want to know what they can do to keep their families and communities safe. People are frightened by the undeniable wave of bigotry and fear tactics that have been unleashed since November 8th.

Venom is spewing all around us. There have been more than 300 reported hate incidents since Election Day. I’ve heard stories about Muslim children asking their parents if they will be deported, of waking up to swastikas spray painted on local buildings, and name-calling and intimidation we hoped was long behind us. I wish it were, but it is not.

If anything, combating religious prejudice and hatred has never been more urgent. Take a look at a few headlines—from just the past week:

All the while, Breitbart and other like-minded media are calling this trend a lie. We need the volume of our voices to match theirs. And we need our actions to speak even louder.

That is why today, I ask you to support Tanenbaum as we combat religious hate with practical solutions. Help us reach all sides and stop the venom. Our organization is small but our impact is large, and we need your help NOW to make long-lasting change.

Please make a donation today, or even sign up for monthly giving, to help combat religious prejudice, fear and hatred—so we don’t have to wake up to another day of headlines like these.

With gratitude,

Joyce S. Dubensky
CEO, Tanenbaum

United Against Hate

Dear Friends,

With resolute condemnation, Tanenbaum acknowledges the news of another terror attack. It is with a heavy-heart that we mourn the slaughter of 36 innocent people and pray for the 147 others now known to be injured at the Istanbul Ataturk Airport in Turkey.

While those responsible and the motivation remains unclear (both the PKK, a Kurdish organization seeking independence from Turkey, and the Islamic State are suspect) – what remains absolute is that we not fall into the easy trap of assigning blame without knowing the facts. We must not resort to stereotypes and hateful rhetoric. We know where they lead. Too often, to harassment and violence against our Muslim neighbors and those perceived to be Muslim.

Instead, we ask that you join us in standing by our Muslim friends and community members. You can help us create a world grounded in respect and inclusivity.

In short order, we will learn more about the perpetrators. For now, let us remember the victims as the details of this barbaric incident unfold. Let us focus our thoughts on condolences for the families of the deceased, and our prayers for the injured and all affected in Turkey. 

Terrorists, like those who targeted innocent people in Istanbul today, want to make us feel powerless. At Tanenbaum, we will not. We ask you to join us in creating a united front against their hate, more empowered than before.

In sorrow, but with a firm resolve,

Joyce S. Dubensky,
CEO, Tanenbaum

Once again, say NO to Terrorism!

Dear Friends,

Yesterday morning, it happened again. We awoke to the horror, pain and anguish of another act of terrorism, this time the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. The numbers are startling. At least 49 people dead and 53 injured from an attack that occurred at Pulse, a gay club in Orlando during Pride month. So many people, so many families, so many communities destroyed in only a few moments.

Just before the shooting, the assailant, Omar Saddiqui Mateen, reportedly called 911 and pledged allegiance to ISIS. Though Mateen had twice been a person of interest to the FBI, no one saw this slaughter coming. And so, it happened once again on American soil.

Sunday’s massacre at Pulse is clearly an act of terrorism, fueled by unimaginable hatred. At Tanenbaum, we stand in solidarity with the people of Orlando but, also, with the people of the LGBTQ community who are being targeted by violence, once again. Indeed, for this community, the violence is both terrorism and a hate crime.

We know that, in times like these, it’s easy to fall back on stereotypes. Across the news, we hear national voices using them. We hear the voices of division, warning us that if one Muslim is a terrorist, we must fear all. But that is wrong. And we know better. As Americans, it’s our responsibility to make sure that we do not conflate Islam and followers of that tradition with Mateen’s horrific actions. And that we do not forget that haters in other shapes and sizes exist, and that they are also dangerous.

We are at a critical moment in our history. The choice is ours. We must not allow terrorism and hatred to destroy our communities. This is a complex and difficult moment. There are many contributing factors to the growing hatred, division and random violence we fear and experience.

But one thing is certain. Our nation is great because of our shared humanity and great diversity. The massacre at Pulse is an attack against all of us. And that means it is the responsibility of each of us to defy the terrorists. We must refuse to let fear turn to unjust distrust and hatred of our neighbors. The time to stand together is now. And in one voice say, No to hate!

In sorrow, but with a firm resolve,

Joyce S. Dubensky
CEO, Tanenbaum

Tanenbaum Condemns Explosion at Sikh Temple in Germany

Tanenbaum condemns an apparently deliberate explosion at a Sikh temple in Essen, Germany. There, the explosion occurred at a community gurdwara, while classes for children were being held along with celebrations for the Sikh festival of Vaisakhi. A masked man was seen fleeing the scene, and three arrests have been made. The Independent has reported that police are investigating the explosion as a deliberate attack, although “there are no indications it was a terrorist incident”.

“We are saddened to hear about the explosion at Essen’s Sikh temple. Such acts of violence are terrifying and designed to be so,” noted Tanenbaum CEO Joyce Dubensky. “Regardless of motive, violent acts such as this latest explosion are intended to kill people and then spread fear and distrust within and among communities. At Tanenbaum, we therefore condemn both the crime and the intention to terrorize people in Germany and across the globe.”

Though this is the first attack in Europe’s recent history that a Sikh gurdwara has been targeted, community members are anxious following the explosion.

“We may not be able to stop such deliberate acts of violence by ourselves. But we can stop the societal conditions that contribute to people believing that discrimination, violence and even terrorism are acceptable. We can end the use of stereotypes and the public and political rhetoric that dehumanizes others – through early education and by promoting civility and compromise when disagreements arise.” Dubensky continued, “Maybe then, less people will be drawn into ideologies that fuel hate crimes and terrorism.”

 

Tanenbaum is a secular, non-sectarian nonprofit that systematically dismantles religious violence and hatred through Peacemakers in armed conflicts and by tackling religious bullying of students, harassment in workplaces and disparate health treatment for people based on their beliefs.

Tanenbaum Urges Religious and Cultural Competency Training for Aeroméxico

Yesterday Sikh American actor Waris Ahluwalia was denied entry onto an Aeroméxico flight from México City for wearing a turban. Aeroméxico personnel requested that he remove the turban – or purchase a ticket on another airline.

Speaking on behalf of the Tanenbaum | Center for Interreligious Understanding, its CEO Joyce Dubensky condemned the conduct of the Aeroméxico personnel. “What happened to Mr. Ahluwalia is a travesty. It is humiliating, disrespectful and unnecessary, even in these days when security is a real issue,” said Dubensky. “Sadly, this is not a unique experience.” Over an 18-month period, the Sikh Coalition found that 105 complaints (53%) filed against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security alleged religious discrimination.

Dubensky added, “From Mr. Ahluwalia’s perspective, this was a personal injustice. And for Aeroméxico, it was really bad business. In this climate of heightened security, Aeroméxico does not have to compromise safety for respect. As México’s largest airline, Aeroméxico must train screening personnel on how to respectfully screen passengers wearing religious headwear and clothing.”

One solution that Tanenbaum proposes is having screeners provide privacy for people who wear turbans or other religious coverings so they can be screened, if appropriate, by a same-sex airline employee. “In many instances, people will cooperate with airline personnel in private, as long as they are not being asked to publicly expose themselves and violate their religious beliefs,” Dubensky explained.

Like many Sikhs, Ahluwalia described how his turban and beard represent his commitment to justice and equality. “As fellow travelers, we should all encourage airlines and national security agencies to practice religious and cultural respect, while maintaining real security. Because what happened to Mr. Ahluwalia is inexcusable and it shouldn’t happen to anyone.” Dubensky said.

Tanenbaum offers a range of trainings and resources to help companies leverage religious diversity, create inclusive work environments and meet financial business goals.

President Obama’s Condemnation of Islamophobia is Admirable – and Overdue

Yesterday President Obama addressed thousands of American-Muslims at the Islamic Society of Baltimore during his first visit to a mosque in the United to condemn anti-Muslim rhetoric.

“We applaud President Obama for his important demonstration of solidarity with the Muslim community – yet we also believe his speech is long overdue,” said Tanenbaum | Center for Interreligious Understanding CEO Joyce Dubensky. “In this climate of increasing religious bias and discrimination, he has taken an important step forward in demonstrating how respect can be put into practice, as modeled by our First Amendment.”

Tanenbaum said that as citizens, we should encourage our political leaders to unify divisions within Americans, including religious differences. Regarding the upcoming political election, Dubensky stated, “Regardless of political affiliation, it’s the responsibility of our next president to take an early stance against the stereotypes, hate and alienation that result when people think that terrorism and Islam are synonymous.”

Tanenbaum offers a range of educational curricula and other materials including its Combating Extremism resources, which help teachers and individuals address extremism constructively in classrooms and communities.

Oregon Reflections & Recommitment

Dear Friends,

We are filled with sorrow for the innocent victims at Oregon’s Umpqua Community College, for their families whose lives are changed forever, for their friends and their entire community.

As details emerge, at least two surviving students have reported that the shooter singled out students who were Christian. As Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin recommended, we will not name the shooter – we want attention to focus on those who will forever be marked by this day’s horrific events.

Tragically, this incident is not unique – in so many ways. Not only does it reflect a frightening trend of school gun violence, but it also reflects a terrorizing trend in which people are targeted because of their identities. Here, Christians seem to have been among those targeted. In Wisconsin not too long ago, the victims were the Sikhs. And in Kansas City, Jews were targeted at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City and Village Shalom, a Jewish retirement community.

At Tanenbaum, our hearts again break for everyone injured by yesterday’s shooting. But our resolve is strengthened – as we recommit to countering religious violence and prejudice in all of its forms – in classrooms, hospitals, at work and across the world.

In solidarity,

Joyce S. Dubensky,
CEO

Please Think About Andrew White – As ISIS Menaces Baghdad

Canon Andrew White

 

Right now, all we can do is pause, hope, and for those who pray – to pray.

Canon Andrew White, one of Tanenbaum’s Peacemakers in Action, was interviewed from Baghdad where he continues to tend to the dwindling Christian community and their neighbors.

He remains in Iraq, even though he tells us that ISIS is descending on Baghdad. Word is that they are about 5 miles out. Andrew is supposed to have some protection from Iraqi soldiers assigned to defend him. But his soldier told him that, if ISIS comes, he will take off his uniform and run! Andrew believes that ISIS must be defeated by ground troops – but there are none. And meanwhile, the roads out of Baghdad are blocked.

And so I ask you to join us today – to pause and remember Andrew and all the Iraqi people.

Thank you for caring,

Joyce S. Dubensky, CEO