Editor’s note: This guest post is by Dustin Craun, a writer, community organizer, and digital strategist who works as a clergy organizer for the PICO National Network and as community organizer for PACT San Jose, a federation of PICO.
On March 4th, the Bay Area Muslim community turned out in huge numbers to an Oakland City Council meeting to stop the building of the Domain Awareness Center (DAC). The DAC was a proposed city-wide surveillance system that would have created a $12 million dollar Department of Homeland Security-funded surveillance center that would have aggregated information from nearly 1000 video cameras, sensors, social media feeds and real time data to spy on anyone within Oakland city limits. Imam Zaid Shakir, co-founder of Zaytuna College and the Imam of the Lighthouse Mosque in North Oakland, and one of 30 Muslims sharing public testimony at the council meeting, stated, “This is not a Muslim issue, but an American issue. We don’t want other communities to go through what the Muslim community has gone through.” This was a powerful Muslim faith-based organizing victory that is resonating throughout the Bay Area.
One Nation Bay Area and Interfaith Funders
During this same period, a number of foundations like The San Francisco Foundation began asking questions related to the Muslim community around issues of civic engagement and congregation based organizing in the United States. From this emerged the One Nation Bay Area project where a consortium of funders came together to fund nonprofits with an interest in deepening Muslim community civic engagement projects in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The Muslim community lives at the center of a number of social injustices that affect people throughout the United States broadly, ranging from mass incarceration and immigration struggles to racial and religious profiling. However, the interfaith funders recent report Building Bridges, Building Power: Developments in Institution-Based Community Organizing reported that mosques represent only 1% of the 4500 total member institutions that make up the ecology of the Congregation Based Organizing (CBO) field.
Multi-faith Organizing as a Unifying Force
Through my work with local Bay Area PICO federations (CCISCO and PACT San Jose) and with the National network as a clergy organizer we are excited to continue to expand our Muslim organizing work throughout the Bay Area, the state of California, and nationally in the coming years.
With the example we set working with the Lighthouse Mosque, and as the number of Muslim organizers and mosque involvement in organizing grows throughout the country the time is now for foundations to make investments in organizing on a local level within the Muslim community.
Like all of our work at PICO, this work is rooted in the values of our faith; and for the Muslim community, this work is rooted in a chapter of the Qur’an called The Quarters, where God speaks of the divine purpose of the diversity of the world in which we live. Misunderstandings, prejudices and racism can create hatred between people and keep us from understanding and living the divine purpose of our diversity and differences across race, gender, nationality, and religion. Multi-faith organizing forces us to be in relationship with one another so that all of our families, can live dignified lives together as we take on the great triple evils that Martin Luther King warned us of at the end of his life: poverty, racism, and war.
As the great Muslim poet Amir Sulaiman reminded us in his piece Come to the Hills (We Must Win), it is not a question or a choice for us to work on these issues, this is a matter of life and death for many communities, and “We must win.”
Please see Storify for more information on the community victory to stop the Domain Awareness Center. Also, if you are interested in learning more about Muslim organizing at your mosque or institution, please contact Dustin Craun at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For further information about the Bay Area Muslim community, please see “The Bay Area Muslim Study: Establishing Community and Identity.” This benchmark study on the Bay Area Muslim community was commissioned in May 2013 by the One Nation Bay Area project, a partnership between The San Francisco Foundation, Silicon Valley Community Foundation, Marin Community Foundation, and Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy.