FREMONT — His name was never spoken in two hours of speeches, but Donald Trump’s anti-Islamic rhetoric and the Islamophobia it has churned up were roundly repudiated Sunday, as Bay Area civic and religious leaders told Muslim residents and neighbors: You are one of us and you are not alone.
In brief but emphatic and sometimes passionate speeches, about two dozen pastors and rabbis, mayors and activists spoke at Hands Around the Mosque, an interfaith event intended to build understanding.
“We can smell fascism when it’s arising, and it’s beginning to arise in the country,” said Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of the Berkeley-based Jewish Tikkun magazine. “It scares us.”
Adults — wearing clerical collars and yarmulkes, shawls and scarves — and children filled folding chairs set on out the plaza of the elegant, domed mosque, as the Islamic call to prayer began the program.
“If all of us sit down with each other and talk to each other, all the ignorance and fear will just fly out the window,” Sundas said.
Many were propelled to participate by their own religious teachings.
Christians are uniquely challenged to actively build bridges of understanding among religions, said the Rev. Vincent Raj, of the Episcopal Diocese of El Camino Real on the Monterey Peninsula.The Hebrew Bible commands “remember the stranger with kindness, said Rabbi Neil Penn, of Beyt Tikkun in Berkeley.
The event included guests clasping hands as they formed a circle in the plaza of the mosque, to express a movement “from fear to friendship” in public attitudes toward Muslim Americans.
But even as they rejected the politics of hate, the messages of acceptance were delivered not to be directive, but reflective.
“Americans after 9/11 have been quick to condemn, too quick to pass judgment,” said Scott Haggarty, president of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors.
And Abbot Jianshu Shifu of the Zen Center of Sunnyvale, reminded people that there were no good and bad people, just people who do go and bad deeds.
Learner, cofounder of the Network of Spiritual Progressives, blamed not Trump supporters, but an economic system that is squeezing, disenfranchising and alienating most people. “We need to address the hunger in people for an alternative,” he said, and transform the social order.
Since founding American Muslim Voice in 2003, Sundas has held peace picnics, peace conventions and invited the broader community to celebrate the Muslim feast Eid, and always has fed the participants. She ran out of food only once, on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, when 600 instead of 300 people show up.
On Sunday, after a candlelight vigil, the feast of Pakistani food — served in the sanctuary of the neighboring St. Paul Fremont United Methodist Church, because the center lacked space for the crowd — proved to be enough to go around. Sundas was happy.
She had hoped to present a counter vision, to the politics of rejection, of what America could be — and is. “We could send a loud and clear message to the world: In California, this is how we do things. We support each other with kindness with love and with compassion.”