September 6, 2017 — Los Angeles, California
The Abraham Society is a “people to people” initiative based in Southern California, whose broad mission is to foster relationships of trust, confidence and understanding among individuals of Muslim, Christian and Jewish backgrounds and their respective communities. We are a strictly non-partisan organization, and our members come from a variety of religious, secular and political backgrounds.
What unites us is our shared belief in the core values of our vibrant American democracy: equal protection under law; freedom of speech and expression; mutual respect and tolerance; and valuing the many diverse constituents of American society.
While we may have come from different cultural backgrounds, we share a common humanity. Our lives and society are enriched by meaningful encounters with each other. It is important to strengthen the values of moderation in our respective traditions and to encourage constructive engagement in furtherance of mutual respect and tolerance.
We believe that recent events - particularly Charlottesville and some of the responses to it (including from President Trump) and the ugly comments about Jews made by imams in Davis and Riverside, California – require condemnation by people of good will in support of American democracy and values. While freedom of speech and expression is a core value, bigotry and hatred, regardless of their source, must be clearly and forcefully called out and condemned.
The racist people who marched in Charlottesville, spewing hatred of Jews, African-Americans, Muslims, and other minorities, are antithetical to American values – the President of the United States should be unambiguous on this. To say as President Trump did in his responses, that there “are many sides” to what occurred in Charlottesville, will be interpreted as suggesting a moral equivalence between the bigots and those who stood against them. This should not stand; there should be only one “side” in reacting to racism – call it what it is and forcefully and unambiguously condemn it. And if, unfortunately, President Trump is not willing to make this clear, it is up to the rest of us to do so.
Similarly, in California, we recently experienced virulent anti-Semitic sermons by two Muslim imams. There can be no excuse for this, and it should be called out by all Americans, including Muslims, for what it is – anti-Semitism. While the imams have each issued apologies and are working with their local Jewish communities to restore interfaith harmony, what is said cannot readily be unsaid, and the damage has been done. We do not believe that extremist views are at all representative of the beliefs of American Muslims, and that allowing such statements to stand without unambiguous condemnation by American Muslim leaders is not acceptable.
The Abraham Society is committed to opposing bigotry of all forms (e.g. anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, racism, homophobia) and however it manifests itself (e.g. neo-Nazis, KKK, white supremacist organizations, radical Muslim clerics). Abuse of the right to free speech demands that people of good will not be silent, and we will use our voices to call out purveyors of hate and to encourage others to join in our efforts.
In addition to our speaking out, the Abraham Society is actively developing programs and alliances to foster mutual understanding and to strengthen the overwhelming moderate majority in this country, which believes that our nation is stronger when our different communities know each other better.
The Abraham Society Advisory Committee:
Ali Sajjad Taj
The mission of the Abraham Society, affiliated with the American Jewish Committee’s Los Angeles Regional Office, is to foster relationships of trust, understanding and mutual interest among Jewish, Muslim, and Christian individuals of diverse backgrounds and professions residing in Southern California. The goal is to build a foundation for greater understanding and engagement between our communities, premised on our shared conviction that there are broad areas of common interest. To learn more, please visit www.ajclosangeles.org or contact AJC Los Angeles Assistant Director Saba Soomekh at firstname.lastname@example.org.