~ Sammer Aboelela, one of the leaders in Faith House community of communities and contributor to this website, is Community Organizer with the NYC Community of Muslim Progressives. He also serves on the Board of Directors of Muslims for Progressive Values.
Sammer just left for Cairo, Egypt to visit his family. Couple of days before he left, he and I (Sammer and Samir) met in a coffee shop on the West Side and spend some time discussing the latest in Middle East and then dreaming, hoping, reminding one another why we are doing this community organizing thing. Soon after arriving to Cairo he heard the news about the bombing plot in New York and emailed this letter to us, his Jewish and Christian friends in New York sharing his personal thoughts. Some of the people who live near Riverdale Temple synagogue have been our guests at Faith House and we both met many of our caring and concerned Jewish friends through Marcia Kannry and The Dialogue Project.
I’m sitting in Cairo now as I write this letter, at the home of relatives with whom I was reunited yesterday after nearly a decade of separation. I went to sleep last night with a feeling of peace that I haven’t felt in a long time, and woke early this morning to the sound of the Azhan, the Islamic call to prayer, as it sung its way across the neighborhood and through the open window over my bed.
But as I was sharing hugs with my Muslim family here in Egypt, four very disturbed Muslim men were planting bombs in an effort to tear apart Jewish families in New York. Early news reports suggest that these men were “upset about the war in Afghanistan,” so with a deranged rationale of misanthropic nihilism they somehow concluded that planting bombs in front of two Bronx synagogues and recreating the atmosphere of bloodshed, fear, and loss we experienced during and after 9/11 would provide some personal cathartic release.
I want my friends in the New York Jewish community to know how deeply I sympathize with the emotional anguish that is sure to pervade in the wake of this failed plot. While we’re all concerned for the wellbeing of our families in this period of economic insecurity, none of us should carry the additional burden of being potential targets of violent acts of hate and terror. You have no idea how relieved I am that you are all safe from the will of these would-be terrorists, and how concerned I am for your (and our collective) ongoing health and safety.
In all honesty, it is times like these that I wish Islam had some mechanism for excommunication. I wish that my non-Muslims friends and acquaintances would see me, my family, my Muslim friends, and the American Muslim community as representative of Islam rather than the headline grabbing sociopaths who act in our name. I’m so sick of finding myself ashamed of something I didn’t do, by someone I do not know, with motives I do not share, against people for whom I care.
Please know that you are not alone in the shock of this news… that good everyday people whom you have never met, and will likely never meet, as far away as Egypt are also distressed by this story. My thoughts and their thoughts are with you. My prayers and their prayers are for you.
Organizer, New York Community of Muslim Progressives