A week after the Presidential election, we are still processing the changes that the election of a new leader might produce. This is not an effort to rehash the arguments of that campaign and my friends know my own inclinations. Rather, this is an attempt to share one story that provides an example of how we can respond.
As many know, there was dissension in our community when the Islamic Center in Murfreesboro began building a place of worship in 2010. The backlash included vandalism, a bomb threat, and an unsuccessful lawsuit. The challenges failed and the Muslim community has continued to be good and responsible neighbors.
When worshippers gathered at the Islamic Center for prayer last Friday, they found that Rachel Sloan, a local leader, had organized a gesture of support and encouragement that was reported in the local paper.
"The little group I started is called Murfreesboro Support Alliance,” said Sloane. “We developed literally in less than 24 hours ago as a response to many members of the community in Murfreesboro who wanted a way to take action to show unity, support and love." The group passed out flowers and shared words of encouragement.
Saleh Sbenaty, a professor in the Department of Engineering Technology at Middle Tennessee State University, is a member of the Islamic Center and a respected participant in the local community. He agreed that community support was needed following an election that was a hard time for many Muslims.
"Hopefully, after the election, things will calm down," said Sbenaty, "The community will reunite, and we will stand together to face our challenges, and hopefully the future will be brighter than what we went through. And we’re looking forward to a united community working together for the wellness of our community and our country."
This is the way forward for all of us. Religious leaders must speak up and provide encouragement and support for minority religious groups, marginalized people, and the “least of these” in our society. Together we make a difference.
(Reporting of this event appeared in the Daily News Journal.)