5 December 2015
UNITED STATES: CPT Facebook post encouraging U.S. Muslims
goes viral, receives pushback on connection of “whiteness” to violence
The San Bernardino massacre on 2 December 2015, carried out by Tashfeen Malik and Syed Rizwan Farook, exposed U.S. Muslims to another round of Islamophobic violence and vitriol on social media. Christian Peacemaker Teams decided to take a proactive stance the next morning by publishing the following paragraphs on Facebook:
Dear Muslim friends, family and colleagues in the U.S.,
Because of the still unfolding #SanBernardino mass shooting, we know this week may be difficult for you. People may make connections between your faith and culture that they did not make when Robert Dear, Christopher Sean Harper-Mercer, Dylan Roof, Adam Lanza or many other white mass shooters gunned down innocent civilians.
We want you to know we will commit ourselves this week to challenging those who make racist, ignorant generalizations about Islam and violence. We commit ourselves to drawing connections between whiteness and violence. Because God has no place in this beautiful creation for the evils of racism.
We invite our Facebook followers to leave encouraging comments for our Muslim brothers and sisters.
By Saturday morning, the post had reached more than 280,000 people, been liked by 3400 people and shared by 1900 people.
People like Suzanne Wade wrote,
I have reminded a number of people that in the Middle East,
Christians offer their prayers to Allah, because it is simply the Arabic for
“God”. I will remember and remind others that we are all children of
the same God. I am keeping an eye out for you, my brothers and sisters, and
will not stay silent.
Budagher invited Muslims to join him in his Rio Rancho, NM home for dinner and
Far more of the 500 responses were from Muslims expressing
gratitude for the sentiments expressed in the post and for the supportive
comments. Samar Awada wrote,
After reading every comment here, all I can tell you is
that I am breathing fresh air of hope, after yesterday I had lost all hope. I
even approached my husband of the idea to sell everything we have and move back
to Lebanon just so my children have a chance. I sat all day in front of the news thinking to
myself we are done, they are going to hate us no matter how good we are. This
feed came totally as a surprise to me.
Arshi Mujtaba wrote,
I can’t tell you how
much these words mean to me and all the peace loving Muslims. Our hearts are
bleeding over the loss of innocent lives and even more because all of us are
again being blamed for the actions of the deranged few. America is our home.
Where do you go when people in your home hate you?
Relatively few people offered critiques
(People using hateful rhetoric were banned, since CPT intended the post to
encourage people and did not want them to have to face more ugliness on Facebook than they already had in other venues.) Some people, Muslim and non-Muslim, had honest questions about the
connection of whiteness to violence.
CPT responded to their questions with this comment:
The statement is not meant to say that
individual white people are inherently violent, but that in our white-dominated
society, people of color are stigmatized as violent, even though it is white
people who were responsible for genocide on this continent, and in Europe, and
during the slave trade, and during the colonial period in other countries. But
white people in this country tend to “tune out” the violence of white
history. This is an interesting article on the topic: Violence of Whiteness .
We suspect one of the people we banned reported the comment
to Facebook as “hate speech,” and Facebook temporarily disabled our page on
Friday evening, saying we had to remove it.
We reposted it as a status update and it seems as though the Facebook Powers-that-Be
had second thoughts, because our page was functioning normally on Saturday
Kenji Kuramitsu, who has written extensively about the
theological and social implications of whiteness in his Twitter account and on his blog, when
asked to give a more thorough explanation of “whiteness” and violence,
In the Western context, theologically speaking, whiteness
is the willing participation of people in a system of racial dominance that, in
biblical language, is satanic…”Being white” is not about skin color
so much as it is participating in a horrifically violent sociological trend
created in Europe in the 1680s and seeded in the United States under the
Southern aristocracy that wished to divide organizing workers.
Whiteness is a shifting marker of power, not a concrete
biology. Whiteness is violence to both “white people” – through the
insidious lie that one can be normal, cultureless, the standard, without
heritage and simply “white” – and to people of color, who are harmed
by this system in distinct and lethal ways. White supremacy is not simply
prejudice, but calculated logics that were set in place to achieve economic and
We encourage our constituents to continue leaving
encouraging messages for our Muslim brothers and sisters here and to
continue discussing the role of “whiteness” in their society and theology.