By Eboo Patel & Samantha Kirby
As we’re sure everyone has heard by now, on Monday Juan Williams said the following on Fox News: “… when I get on a plane… if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think… they’re identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.”
When we heard this, we thought one thing: let’s not be like Juan.
Williams was given a high profile platform to say, “It’s ok to be suspicious of an entire religious group because of the actions of a handful of extremists.” This is a poisonous attitude – one that mainstream media shouldn’t validate. They wouldn’t do it about gender or racial communities, and they shouldn’t do it about religious communities.
Thankfully, there’s a different kind of conversation happening about religious diversity outside of the media limelight. It’s not about multi-million dollar contracts, but about building bridges rather than barriers, and how we should treat our fellow Americans.
At IFYC, we see that conversation most inspiringly on college campuses.
It’s a conversation about how to spread the ethic of pluralism vs. extremism instead of Christians vs. Muslims, the belief in the fact that we are better together rather than strongest if our group dominates, and the recognition that the actions of a few do not merit the broadbrushing of whole communities.
This weekend, hundreds of college students and campus allies will come to Washington, DC to be part of IFYC’s inaugural Interfaith Leadership Institute, hosted by Georgetown University with a welcome session at the White House. They will learn how, as responsible citizens, they can share an entirely different message about how to view diverse religious communities. They will learn how to speak out about how, instead of being threatened by difference, we can view our diverse citizens as partners who can improve the common good together.
By the end, they’ll be able to give Juan a few new lines on religious diversity.