CINCINNATI – A new interfaith group has kicked off its work in Cincinnati, Ohio, to help combat anti-Muslim sentiment and promote interfaith dialogue and relationships with Greater Cincinnati’s Muslim community.
“I look at it this way: where do we want to go as a civilization?” Mike Yeazell, a Cincinnati lawyer and lifelong Catholic, told Cincinnati.com.
“I am reminded of the Robert Frost poem `Fire and Ice.’ We can go up in flames, or we can choose the cold – isolation and fear. Either way is good enough to destroy all that we’ve created.”
Yeazell, a 1997 St. Xavier High School graduate who grew up in Monfort Heights, recalls how he woke Tuesday morning to news that the so-called Islamic State had claimed responsibility for an attack on a French church that left an elderly priest dead.
Such acts posed a huge challenge to his group, the Bridges of Faith Trialogue, which was reformed in January to combat anti-Muslim sentiment.
The group gathers several dozen people from the Muslim, Christian and Jewish communities and traces to previous human relations work done by the organization Bridges for a Just Community.
It was known previously as the National Conference for Community and Justice and the National Conference of Christians and Jews under the leadership of Robert “Chip” Harrod.
The new pamphlet is titled “Getting to Know Our Muslim Neighbor: Islamophobia – not in our community.”
Trialogue members plan a region-wide campaign known as “Getting to Know Our Muslim Neighbor.”
“In the process of promoting interfaith understanding, the campaign will attempt to dispel the negative stereotypes of Muslims and counter the unjust scapegoating of all members of this esteemed world religion based on the terrorist actions of political extremists,” Harrod said.
The group helps others to better recognize efforts of Cincinnati region’s Muslim population, estimated at 25,000.
“While their numbers are relatively small, their civic contributions are large,” Harrod said.
“Local Muslims are extremely active in and contributing leadership to nearly every major civic enterprise in Cincinnati and its immediate area. The public needs to be reminded of this, and that’s our aim.”
Amid soaring anti-Muslim sentiments, partially due to hateful Republican rhetoric, the Trialogue pamphlet addresses terrorism under the heading, “How to respond to untruths.”
“Muslims worldwide profoundly reject the hate-filled doctrine espoused by ISIS,” it reads. “It is no fairer to say that Islam is to be blamed for ISIS than it is to say that Christianity is to be blamed for the KKK.”
Her husband, a longtime Cincinnati lawyer, said they know too many people of goodwill who are Muslim to remain quiet.
“So much of what is going on seems to be coming from a place of ignorance, of not knowing a Muslim,” said Jack Rubenstein, 74.
“We would like some of our friends who are suspicious of Muslims to meet. They might see what have experienced, all of the things we have in common. We talk about our children. We talk about the community and how we care about it.”