Workshop tackles anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim movements

By Carolyn Lewis

Kalia Abiade

Photo by George Conklin

CHICAGO (April 1, 2017) — “There is no magic solution,” a group of RCC convention participants learned Saturday during a session to discuss “News from the Frontlines, Defeating Anti-Muslim and Anti-Immigrant Movements.”

“There has been a lot of grassroots organizing by anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim groups over the years,” continued Kalia Abiade of the Pillars Fund at the Chicago Community Trust, and these anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim groups are well-organized and well-funded and have access to lawmakers.

Recently, “the rhetoric has gotten much worse” and anti-immigration and anti-Muslim activists have become emboldened with increased criminal acts.

People have fears that are being exploited. “There is a stereotyping of a minority that blames everyone for the acts of a few,” she said.

Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons of the Security and Rights Collaborative at ReThink Media, joined Abiade and reiterated the fear people have.

Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons

Photo by George Conklin

“Most terrorist attacks are not done by Muslims, but people think they are,” Graves-Fitzsimmons said. “Americans don’t like the politically charged rhetoric but are willing to go along with policies that seem to address their fears.”

He suggested that communicators and others can help counteract the anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim feelings by advocating some core American principles such as “freedom of religion, a tradition and ideal that forms the foundation of our country.”

“No one should fear for their safety because of the color of their skin, the language they speak or how they pray. Hate must not beget hate, violence must not beget violence. We need more love and less fear,” he said.

A base unity needs to be emphasized. “We are stronger when we come together as Americans and weaker when we let fear and lack of understanding come between us,” he said.

“We should address terrorist acts based on evidence, not single out an entire group of people based on their faith,” he continued. “Not only is that the right thing to do, it is more effective at keeping us safe.”

Abiade pointed out the need to create alternative narratives explaining who Muslims are and highlighted the wide diversity among the 1.7 billion people of the Muslim faith.

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