“We Muslims, Arabs and South Asians are honored and grateful to our fellow Americans from diverse communities and faiths for standing with us in this climate of hate and division,” read the invitation to a unique and powerful event I attended on February 28th at the Islamic Society of the East Bay. I joined hundreds of concerned leaders and community members from around the Bay Area to stand in solidarity with the local Muslim community at a time of growing antipathy and prejudice against innocent women, men and children.
Samina Sundas, the tireless community leader who founded the Bay Area-based American Muslim Voice Foundation in 2002, together with the Islamic Society, assembled an extraordinary gathering of civic and faith leaders to lift their voices in support of diversity and inclusion. Gathered outside the mosque, we listened to the Mayor and Vice-Mayor of Fremont, the Mayor of Palo Alto, and state and local elected officials who reaffirmed their commitment alongside Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Christian, and other faith and community leaders. They all spoke to the need to embrace the region’s growing ethnic and religious diversity and to oppose bigotry and hatred based on race, ethnicity, country of origin, or religion wherever we encounter it.
As the daughter of an immigrant and a life-long Bay Area resident, I was deeply moved by the “Hands Around the Mosque” event, and I was reminded how much I cherish living where inclusion and diversity are commonly embraced as core values and that we constantly remake ourselves as a country with new waves of newcomers, arriving generation after generation, despite persistent xenophobia and discrimination. I am grateful to work for The San Francisco Foundation – a philanthropic organization committed to racial and economic equity in the region and to building bridges of understanding and partnerships between diverse communities.
A Consistent and Innovative Champion
The San Francisco Foundation has been a consistent champion for inclusion and innovative programs that build support for organizations and leaders on the margins of the philanthropic world. After September 11th, TSFF, along with Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy (AAPIP) and other funders, launched the Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim and South Asian (AMEMSA) Civic Engagement Fund. Through the fund AMEMSA organizations built their capacity for service, organizing and civic engagement. TSFF also joined with local fellow community foundations to create a two-year initiative called the One Nation Bay Area Project to build the civic engagement of Bay Area Muslims and educate the broader public about their contributions and needs. This project provided catalytic support for Muslims and non-Muslims to learn about each other and to work together on common community service and building programs. As part of this last effort the first ever study of the Bay Area Muslim community, numbering close to 250,000, was commissioned and widely disseminated. See more here.
Most recently, in January we co-hosted with AAPIP and the Proteus Fund a roundtable conversation with community leaders and funders to learn about the impact of Islamophobia on the local Muslim, Arab and South Asian community. We heard first-hand the need for funding for mental health services, advocacy, and community-led organizing and advocacy efforts. We also heard stories of intense fear, isolation and the harassment of AMEMSA community members – even here in the Bay Area.
We invite you to learn more below about some of the AMEMSA organizations we have long partnered with to build a Bay Area that provides opportunity and access for all Bay Area residents, regardless of race, ethnicity, religious affiliation or national origin.
The Afghan Coalition is a non-profit community based umbrella organization that seeks to empower refugee families, women and youth, both locally and in Afghanistan and to build bridges between the United States and Afghanistan. The mission is accomplished through the provision of community services, supporting member organizations’ community based programs and fostering understanding, reconciliation, reconstruction and mutual relations between the people of Afghanistan and the people of the United States. Programs include civic engagement, mental health and domestic violence services and micro-enterprise training.
CAIR enhances understanding of Islam, encourages dialogue, protects civil liberties, empowers American Muslims, and builds coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding. The CAIR-SFBA chapter was formed in 1994 when a group of dedicated volunteers saw a need for a unique kind of Muslim organization – an organization that would work to uphold civil rights of American Muslims, foster a better understanding of the Islamic faith and its followers, and help find avenues for Muslims to integrate more fully into the broader society. Programs include civil rights, civic engagement, community outreach, youth empowerment and challenging Islamophobia.
ING counters prejudice and discrimination against American Muslims by teaching about their traditions and contributions in the context of America’s history and cultural diversity, while building relations between American Muslims and other groups. Founded in 1993, ING achieves its mission through education and community engagement. They work through volunteers and organizations across the country that provide thousands of presentations, training seminars and workshops, and panel discussions in schools, colleges and universities, law enforcement agencies, corporations, healthcare facilities, and community organizations as part of cultural diversity curricula and programs.
The Sikh Coalition is a community-based organization that works towards the realization of civil and human rights for all people. In particular, they work towards a world where Sikhs may freely practice and enjoy their faith while fostering strong relations with their local community wherever they may be. They pursue their mission by providing direct legal services to persons whose civil or human rights are violated; advocating for law and policies that are respectful of fundamental rights; promoting appreciation for diversity through education; and fostering civic engagement to promote local community empowerment.