Responding to the Rise of Anti-Muslim Bigotry in the Halls of Congress

Posted on December 10, 2021 by Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations
The Shoulder to Shoulder campaign and its partners are calling out the behavior of Congresswoman Lauren Boebert and others for what has become a pattern of dangerous anti-Muslim bigotry.
In a press release on December 3rd, Shoulder to Shoulder’s Executive Director, Nina Fernando, stated that, “Islamophobia and anti-Muslim discrimination is not a joke; it is dangerous and it can be deadly. Fueling fear and spreading hate and misinformation about Islam and Muslims can and must be condemned by our nation’s leadership as a bipartisan effort. Disagreeing politically does not give us license to dehumanize one another.”
This press release was followed by an op-ed authored by the campaign’s co-chairs, Kathryn Mary Lohre and Rabbi Esther Lederman, on December 8,  which is shared in its entirety with permission below. The original article can be found here.

Boebert’s anti-Muslim bigotry betrays our Christian and Jewish values

by Kathryn Mary Lohre and Rabbi Esther Lederman

As Jewish and Christian faith leaders, we condemn Congresswoman Lauren Boebert’s recent anti-Muslim remarks and her ongoing pattern of religious bigotry. Not only is this kind of behavior dangerous, it can be deadly. We are particularly alarmed that this rhetoric is coming from one of our elected leaders, whose job it is to serve the American people. We find it incompatible with her Christian convictions, and the calling we share as people of faith.

Anti-Muslim bigotry, hate crimes, and incitement to violence are widespread issues in our nation. According to a 2020 report from the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, American Muslims are the most likely group to experience any religious discrimination. In addition, half of American Muslim families with children in public schools reported that a child of theirs had been bullied for their faith in the past year. Even more egregious, one-third of those bullied were at the hands of a teacher or school official.

More than a decade ago, American Jews and Christians came together with American Muslims to work to end anti-Muslim bigotry through the Shoulder to Shoulder Campaign. Sadly, the urgency of the campaign has only increased since our organization was formed. What is promising is that the campaign has grown in stride, along with the resolve of faith leaders at local, regional, and national levels. Shoulder to Shoulder connects, equips, and mobilizes American people of all faiths and backgrounds to more effectively address, counter, and prevent anti-Muslim discrimination. We encourage and support relationship building across differences, we resource and train people of faith on these issues, and we amplify faith voices in the public sphere. As the co-chairs of the campaign, we urge you to join us in this urgent work of equipping yourselves to lead with “faith over fear” in your own community.

A Pew Research Center poll released earlier this year indicated that 78% of Americans know that Muslims face “a lot” of discrimination, second only to Black Americans. (Though of course, many Black Americans are Muslim!) The research further indicates that this is a bi-partisan concern. So why be silent? Why allow this discrimination to fester and grow only to embolden those who are filled with hate, like the man who left a voicemail for Rep. Ilhan Omar with a chilling racist death threat after Rep. Lauren Boebert’s refusal to apologize for her bigoted remarks? Why not work to counteract this dangerous — if not deadly — narrative by uplifting American Muslim contributions to everyday society, to medicine and science, public policy and law, community service, and bridge-building? We will not stand by while anti-Muslim tropes are used to diminish and destroy who Muslims are, and have always been, in our shared American society.

There is a beautiful confluence in our faith traditions this week that gives us hope for a better way. In recent days, Jews lit the final candles during Channukah, remembering their peoples’ struggle for religious freedom. Christians are also lighting candles to mark this time of Advent — of anticipation — when the angels declared “peace on earth” at the birth of the Christ child. Here in the United States, we are experiencing, yet again, the capacity for light to disperse the darkness of these days. When we join together, the glowing light of our traditions will guide us together in prayerful action for peace and religious freedom in the present.

We encourage you to join us in speaking up alongside our Muslim neighbors against religious bigotry of any form, and especially against anti-Muslim hate: Call and hold our elected leaders accountable to our shared American ideals. Encourage house leaders to hold Rep. Boebert to a higher standard of leadership. Engage in ongoing work of Shoulder to Shoulder with other faith partners in your local context to end anti-Muslim discrimination and violence. Anti-Muslim bigotry betrays our Jewish and Christian values and it betrays our American ideals.

Kathryn Mary Lohre is the Executive for Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations in the Office of the Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Rabbi Esther Lederman is the Director of Congregational Innovation for the Union for Reform Judaism. Lohre and Rabbi Lederman are also the Co-Chairs of the Shoulder to Shoulder Campaign.