Every Christmas since I was a child I’ve been told that this is the season to practice good will by loving my neighbors, giving to the less fortunate, and being grateful for what I have. This year it doesn’t feel sufficient to be a “Secret Santa,” or to open my heart to heal difficult relations with family members.
The almost daily surge in Islamophobia is casting a dark cloud over the holiday messages to practice love. How can I ignore fundamentalists in my own backyard who are preaching hate for Muslims at the time of year when I’m called on to be more loving?
I discovered some answers on the website for Codepink, the women’s peace and justice organization. Under the title, “Don’t be a passive bystander to Islamophobia,” Codepink has produced a list of suggestions for interacting with Muslims in one’s community. Among their advice: when riding public transportation, sit next to a woman wearing a hijab and greet her; write letters to the editors to counter anti-Muslin rhetoric; and call out hate speech when you hear it at work or among friends.
My favorite Codepink recommendation is one most of us can replicate: it’s holding a “Pop-Up Gathering for Peace.”
Again, the Codepink website has detailed instructions under the title, “Menu for Peace.” You are asked to host a potluck dinner in your home where you invite friends, ideally including someone from the Middle East or of Middle Eastern heritage who can talk about what it means to be a Muslim or to live among them.
To insure that the potluck discussion doesn’t hit any pot holes (an irresistible pun), Codepink offers a time-limited format, starting with a thoughtful reading, cues for active listening and ground rules that cover mutual respect and guaranteeing everyone a chance to speak.
As the evening progresses and everyone become more comfortable, the suggestion is to share personal fears about Islamophobia, brainstorm for peaceful responses, and, finally, draw up a list of public actions to combat Islamophobia.
The Codepink format is not set in stone. It offers a good starting point. You can adapt it to fit your style and your group. The potluck could be held in a variety of settings other than in a living room. It could be an after-school program for High School students, a church program, an event sponsored by a local progressive organization, or a women’s club. The forums are endless.
The point is that there is something we all can do and actually must do to stop the Trump-led wave of Muslim hatred. Let’s show the world that America holds more love than hate. And why not have elder women at the forefront of this community-based effort? Let’s be Wise Women in action!