Sunday Extra: Let's stand together against hate in C-U

Sunday Extra: Let's stand together against hate in C-U

By KIRSTIN WILCOX

"Hate has no home here" say the lawn signs proliferating around Champaign-Urbana.

Someone in our community, looking at the distinctive heart-shaped flag logo, disagreed. Believing that hate should have a home here, on June 12, he or she put hand-written messages in the mailboxes of houses displaying this sign, directing recipients to an anti-Muslim hate group, Act for America.

Touting itself as a "nonpartisan grassroots national security" organization, Act for America uses the language of "protecting America" to spread conspiracy theories and stigmatize Muslims.

Although the organization professes to support the Constitution, last month it sponsored "March Against Sharia" rallies across the U.S. to normalize the myth that Islam poses an existential threat to our nation.

The organization also promotes the fiction that refugee resettlement is a component of that threat.

Act for America would have Americans believe that their values of toleration, inclusivity and generosity will open the door to violence and instability — when it is precisely those values that keep us, all of us, safe.

Multiple languages declare the message of the "Hate has no home here" signs, and convey its universality. The United States is made up of people who speak the six languages featured on the sign, including those whose Jewish or Islamic religious observance includes the Hebrew or Arabic featured there.

The lessons of the past tell us that stigmatizing and scapegoating practitioners of a religion brings out the worst in the societies that do it.

The messages that were put in mailboxes tell us that this lesson has not been learned, that our community includes people who think that their own safety can only be ensured by vilifying others. How horrible for the people finding these messages to discover that hate is trying to make a home here. Hineni-CU is a group that is forming here in Champaign to combat hateful rhetoric.

Let us stand together here in Champaign-Urbana against all who would try to turn us against each other. Let's recognize the hate-mongers in our midst, and affirm that hate directed at any ethnic or religious group is hate directed towards all of us who want to live in a world free from bigotry.

Kirstin Wilcox is a member of Hineni-CU, a Jewish justice organization in Champaign-Urbana.

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