I know some pretty amazing Muslims. People who are committed to social justice, peace work, community activism, improving access to health care, social work, violence against women, promoting accessibility, interfaith dialogue — people who spend every waking moment working for society and people who put their efforts into raising righteous citizens and people who overall, make efforts to improve themselves, their families, and their neighbourhoods for “the good.”
So it pains me to hear that many are holding their breath in a kind of 9/11-tragedy-deja-vu — just waiting for the backlash to come full force against Muslims in light of the recent and horrific events in Boston. Despite the fact Muslim organizations have already condemned these actions, some may have to divert their energies away from their current civil engagements and work toward further emphasizing that these terrible actions have no grounding in the Islamic tradition. And even though we are still no closer to knowing the motivation — be it religious, alienation, political or otherwise — Muslim communities, who in vast (VAST) numbers oppose terrorism, will probably have to answer for it by dealing with increased profiling, xenophobia and hate crimes, and prove to others what it means to be a loyal Muslim and a loyal citizen.
There is so much being written on the tragedy, the sorrowful and hopeful aftermath of the survivors, the pain of the families who endured loss, the social media fallout, and what may lie ahead. So much, that it’s difficult to keep up with everything as it’s coming out on the evening Twitter (read Omid Safi’s excellent and succinct breakdown of the events thus far). I’ve tried to maintain some distance, praying for justice and keeping the victims in my prayers, but not wanting to get bogged down with all the media, conspiracy theories and current negative responses. But today I couldn’t help think that perhaps some communities might be able to escape potential derailment.
It was a seriously discombobulated, Twilight-zoney moment. Eryn and I were riding the carousel at Cardiff Bay in Wales, enjoying the bright sun, the gorgeous water and the warbley carnival tunes when a mob of shouting Muslims took over the waterfront. My thoughts immediately turned to “protest.” But I couldn’t imagine what for.
That’s when I heard, “WE LOVE CARDIFF” and saw the chickens.
Under the banner of Citizens UK, a grassroots organization supporting positive civil engagement to transform and benefit communities across the UK, a large group of Muslims pulled together a peaceful call to action to raise awareness and ask a restaurant in Cardiff to go halal.
Nando’s Chicken is halal in almost every English city (and in Ontario!) but not in Cardiff. Muslim customers who opt for a halal food lifestyle are told to travel 12 miles to the nearest halal Nando’s (in an area with no mosques and a Muslim population 23% smaller than Cardiff). So part of the call to action was to gather signatures for a petition while a group of volunteers in chicken outfits ran the 12 miles. A campaign flyer explained that this is an issue of inclusivity, and not just about a religious requirement — and that organizers are willing to work with Nando’s to make this happen.
From what I overheard, the crowd’s reception was positive and according to organizers, they were able to garner much support for their petition. Now, I am in no way comparing the gravity of condemning the Boston bombing with a gastronomical plea. What caught my attention was the proactive emphasis on community. The slogans weren’t a series of religious demands, selfish calls for food or a reaction to anti-Muslim sentiments.
They chanted over and over again, “WE LOVE CARDIFF.” Which to me said, “We want to stay here. We want to enjoy all that Cardiff has to offer. We want to help enrich this society with our presence.”