On March 23, 2017 the Wait Chapel at Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC, hosted a presentation by Nihad Awad, the Executive director of Council on American Islamic Relations. The theme: Normalizing the system of hate.
Nihad delivered a stunning speech to a captivated audience. He spoke about the perils of allowing hate to be normalized. His speech was filled with historical facts and examples of when hate caused havoc in humanity. He pointed out the Rwandan and Bosnian genocides, which were relatively recent; He noted how the world failed to stop these atrocities.
“Do not take credit for the skin color, take credit for your accomplishments. It is a dumb idea to be a supremacist of any kind”. His speech included many verses from the Holy Quran. He quoted ayat 22 from Surah Rum (Chapter 30) where Allah said
“.. And among His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the difference of your languages and colours. Verily, in that are indeed signs for men of sound knowledge.”
Being a refugee himself, he explained how, as a child, he and other children in the camp would gather around the one television they had in the entire camp. He learned the plight of thousands of Africans who were brought to this land against their will. It brought tears to some people’s eyes when Nihad mentioned his doleful visit to a museum where he was able to touch the shackles of the slaves.
While making his argument, that Freedom to practice one’s faith is worth standing up for, he quoted the famous verse in the Holy Quran from chapter 2 verse 256 where Allah says, “There is no compulsion in Religion”. He also confirmed this to the audience by quoting Surah Maeda, verse 32
“..because of that We ordained, for the Children of Israel, that if anyone killed a person, not in retaliation of murder or the spread of mischief in the land, it would be as if he killed all mankind, and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all mankind.”
About Muslim Americans, Nihad said, “More than sixty thousand Muslim American doctors serve American citizens. You will also find Muslim American who are engineers, lawyers and financiers.
A CAIR report which is due states that 2016 has been the worst year for the Muslim Americans in the history of America”. He blamed a well funded network of organizations working round the clock in spreading Islamophobia. The Holocaust did not start with violence. It started with hate messages which set the stage for the violence.
When you see hate speech, you must speak out against it. We have a moral obligation to fight the hate.
Amidst all this Islamophobia, there has also been great show of support from various faiths and non faith groups who have vowed to stand with the Muslims. Nihad pointed out the example where a biker gang who came to support Muslims and stood in front of the armed and violent protesters. Muslims have also shown support to the Jewish communities in the country by raising funds to repair the damages when their synagogues and cemeteries were desecrated.
During Q&A, Nihad singled out the current crisis of Myanmar and the genocide committed against the Rohingya Muslims. He expressed how powerful countries have been largely silent; they have let this continue in the very times we are living in. He ended by saying: “We have to stand up for those whom we know, but It is more powerful when you stand up for those whom you do not know”