Heeding the observation a wise friend shared with me the day after last year’s election, I am making a concerted effort to desegregate what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called “the most segregated hour” in our country. In November I visited the church just a block down the street from my house, a congregation established by former slaves not too many years after the end of the Civil War.
Last Friday, along with my husband and a friend, I attended the monthly community dinner at the Islamic Center of Macon. All three of us were warmly greeted and welcomed for the evening. My friend and I joined the women on their side of the partitioned room, where younger children played and roamed freely from our side to the one where the men gathered. . There were prayers, a practice round for a children’s quiz competition, and wonderful food.
Environmental advocacy connected all of us during dinner conversations. Our concerns ranged from food resources, clean water, and ways that the women we shared a meal with could be active in stewardship. In turn, we were invited to participate and support an interfaith women’s organization in Macon, and of course, to return again to join them.
The mosque where we gathered was vandalized in December 2015. When funds are secured they will relocated to a larger facility better suited for their needs. For now, on the edge of a neighborhood in the early stages of gentrification, just blocks from larger affluent Christian churches, faithful and peace-loving Muslims gather every week to worship, and when visitors appear, they open their arms to hug them as most welcome guests.
Jim Galloway and Kyle Wingfield are spot on in their Atlanta Journal Constitution columns today.
Wingfield begins with, “Plans for a mosque in Newton County — and some loudly negative reactions to those plans — pose some uncomfortable truths to people on both sides of Georgia’s religious-liberty debate.”
Jim Galloway, the leader of Political Insider at the AJC, writes,’White Christian Protestants, the religious demographic group that has dominated American history and culture for nearly four centuries, are losing their grip on the machinery of this nation. Even in the South, we WASPs are being supplanted by multiracial Catholicism, old religions brought newly into our midst, and the rise of the unaffiliated and unchurched.”
Newton County’s county seat, Covington, is a popular location for movie and television filming. The uproar over the mosque, plans for which haven’t been submitted, or a construction permit granted, as Wingfield points out, looks like another episode of angry white Christians in any given news cycle. The cameras on location in Covington aren’t there to film stories of fantasy and fiction. Instead, the cameras have been turned around to expose a fear that brings out the worst in people.
The Atlanta Journal Constitution’s coverage of yesterday’s public hearing in Covington, Georgia, about a building permit request for a new mosque in Newton County, brought out the worst in many local citizens, according to an article by Meris Lutz.
Lutz quotes a woman who said, “To say we wish to disallow this project based on religious discrimination … is ludicrous and hypocritical,… They are discriminating against us by calling us infidels who do not believe in their religion.”
Lutz includes that the woman did not give her name.
Think about that- an adult woman took time to go down to the county’s public hearing on a building permit, she said that Muslims discriminate against “us,” but she refused to tell the reporter what her name is.
In today’s America, and especially in the South, when people show up like this over anything to do with a mosque, I’m confident that the “us” she’s talking about are right-wing Conservative Christians. They qualify as one of America’s most paranoid groups.
What I find curious, is that if you aren’t willing to put your name on your convictions, then what are your beliefs and convictions worth anyway?