SANTA CLARA – Disappointed by rising anti-Muslim sentiments, hundreds of South Bay residents turned out at a Santa Clara mosque, California, forming love rings to express solidarity with their Muslims coworkers, neighbors and colleagues.
“We protest policies and executive orders that divide, dehumanize and demonize,” said the Rev. Joey Lee of the Presbytery of San Jose — which serves Presbyterian churches in four counties — and one of 20 speakers addressing the crowd, Mercury News reported on Sunday, March 19.
“We protest the building of walls rather than bridges and even the idea of a Muslim registry.”
Circling the mosque at the Muslim Community Association, residents held hands together to protect and support their Muslim neighbors.
Later on, they joined speakers exhorting people to stand together and reject hatred and divisiveness.
“I was worried we wouldn’t have enough people to form a circle,” said Yasmine Kilani of Santa Clara, who happened to be teaching at the community association that day and joined in. Instead, she was more than gratified.
“When we see so many people from different faiths here — this is awesome.”
Held on Sunday, the “Hands Around the Mosque” event drew a noticeably bigger crowd than in two previous years.
“I would like to think that it’s the relationships we have built,” said organizer Samina Sundas, founder of the American Muslim Voice Foundation, co-host of the event along with the community association.
With many attending the event to support Muslims, others saw it a chance to stand to dividing politics adopted by Trump administration.
“I am very worried,” said Laurie Castellano, 75, of Palo Alto. “The Trump presidency has really made a resistance worker out of me.”
“We have been looking for a way to show our support for the Muslim community. We thought this was a lovely way to do it,” said Jenn Ibbotson-Brown of Palo Alto, who said she’s become newly political. She, her husband Jeff Brown and children ages 13, 11 and 3, were all holding hands around the mosque.
The new atmosphere was not affecting American Muslims alone.
“The Jewish people stand with our Muslim brothers and sisters,” said Rabbi Jonathan Prosnit of congregation Beth Am in Los Altos Hills.
“We know an attack on one community of faith is an attack on all communities of faith.”
Nestor and Renata Melo of Fremont, both immigrants from Brazil, also turned out to show solidarity.
“It’s very important for the Muslim community to understand that they are welcome,” Nestor Melo, 45, said.
The couple noticed a change in US attitudes when they flew back into this country on a recent trip, as immigration authorities were noticeably less welcoming, and more rigorous in their checks.
Sundas, however, is convinced that as a whole, “Americans are kind, compassionate and open-minded people.”
“Hate cannot drive out hate,” she said. “We need to resist the spread of hate and fear. We need to sow the seeds of friendship.”
Sunday’s mosque gathering “was not meant to change the minds of those under the sway of Islamophobia,” said the Rev. Rowan Fairgrove, 63, of San Jose.
A Wiccan, or pagan, priestess, Fairgrove said, “It’s meant to show our Muslim neighbors that we have their backs.”