Posts Tagged ‘North Carolina Council of Churches’

Islamophobia – a current growing US diversity issue

NC Council of Churches Governing Board and Staff are proud to stand with the banner showing us as united against racism and Islamophobia

NC Council of Churches Governing Board and Staff are proud to stand with the banner showing us as united against racism and Islamophobia

As a diversity consultant, I strive to stay up to date on current trends and issues in the diversity and inclusion field. One of the tough issues growing within our country is Islamophobia. My definition of Islamophobia is, “an irrational fear or hatred of Muslim people based on unfamiliarity or stereotyping.” FYI, Webster’s Dictionary defines stereotyping as “forming a standardized mental picture that is held in common by members of a group and that represents an oversimplified opinion.” Unfortunately, many people are judging the world’s one billion Muslims based on the actions of a very small radical visible few.

I was actually starting to plan this blog over two weeks ago, before the horrific massacre at the Pulse Bar in Orlando, which makes this entry now even more timely.

Why is Islamophobia or any phobia or fear of a group of people problematic? When we cannot all respect each other and work together within our society, we cannot be as productive as a nation as we can, and at its worst, hate and violence occurs.

I am currently on the board of the North Carolina Council of Churches, which represents 17 denominations and several independent congregations. We work to build respect and understanding across denomination and religion lines to impact our state for the good of all our residents. At our quarterly board meeting on June 7, we had a guest presenter, Manzoor Cheema from MERI – the Movement to End Racism and Islamophobia.

Manzoor share several interesting (and some disturbing) information:

• Islam is not a new religion in the United States. Muslims have been present in our country since the 1830s, including Africans brought over in the slave trade (many forced to renounce their religion by their owners)
• Given that a large number of Muslim are “people of color,” racism and islamophobia are connected and intertwined.
• Myths about Islam, like that it is inherently violent, are widely propagated based on the actions of a very small minority.
• There has been a tripling of the attack rate on mosques and Muslims since Presidential candidate Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim statements
• There are a disproportionate ratio Muslims incarcerated and expelled from school. And this statement does is not meant to imply that Muslim commit more crimes, but instead to point our the inherent bias in our justice system.
• Most Muslims do not hate women, Jews, Christians and LGBT people. For example, the MERI organization has partnered with the Jewish Voice for Peace as well as Methodist and Quaker organizations. Manzoor also mentioned addressing discrimination against LGBT people several times during his presentation.

I close with a three recommendations:Mosque photoI close with a three recommendations:

1. Visit a local mosque or attend a Muslim sponsored event.
2. Do research on Islam including viewing resources on the MERI website.
3. Connect with an actual Muslim person and ask them to tell you about their beliefs instead of listening to what other parties are saying about them.

Later this summer I hope to blog about Islam in the workplace, and the LGBT issue within Islam, but for now please do read this excellent and provocative piece reacting to the Orlando massacre by Salma Mirza, a queer-identified Muslim organizer of MERI.

My Meeting with US Cabinet Member Labor Secretary Thomas Perez

This blog is loaded with links to useful resources – please explore and use them (bold underlined)

US Labor Secretary Thomas Perez (right) making a point in the meeting coordinated by Center for Faith-Based Partnerships Rev. Phil Tom (left)

US Labor Secretary Thomas Perez (right) making a point in the meeting coordinated by Center for Faith-Based Partnerships Rev. Phil Tom (left)


On Tuesday, September 16th, I had the special privilege of representing the North Carolina Council of Churches in a meeting of 13 American “faith leaders” with the United States Labor Secretary Thomas Perez.

The meeting, coordinated by the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, was to discuss what the US government administration and Department of Labor are doing to protect workers and provide greater economic opportunities for all. This was my first time meeting with someone so senior level in the US government. And I also viewed the discussion through my lens of being a diversity and career management consultant.

I was extremely impressed with Secretary Perez’s heartfelt commitment to addressing poverty and increasing job opportunities in the USA. And he listened with deep intent to all the participants and demonstrated he heard all of our comments when he synthesized the key issues we discussed.

I shared that the NC Council of Churches has a long history of advocating for social justice including economic justice. My points:
• We have provided educational materials and advocacy around “living wage” since minimum wage is far below what people, especially working single parents, need to live.
• That we tie economic discussions to racial justice since it is minorities that are often the hardest hit with economic difficulties
• That given that NC has a large agricultural economic component, I detailed the various projects we have done around farm workers and immigrant rights.
I also noted that I was elected NC Council of Churches President as an out gay man, that the LGBT community often suffers economic hardship and workplace discrimination in states that do not offer legal protection, and that there are a huge number of people of faith who believe LGBT protections are the right thing to do.

Blog author Stan Kimer (background) listens as Rev Sekinah Hamlin (foreground), another NC Council of Churches former President and now with the Ecumenical Poverty Initiative, shares some points.

Blog author Stan Kimer (background) listens as Rev Sekinah Hamlin (foreground), another NC Council of Churches former President and now with the Ecumenical Poverty Initiative, shares some points.


Secretary Perez listened intently and took a lot of notes as each of the 13 faith leaders spoke. He consolidated all that he heard and offered the following summary remarks: (a few of these items are from his opening remarks too)
• It is important to provide vocation training for inmates nearing the end of their sentences, providing them a second chance and assisting them of becoming productive members of society instead of returning to prison
• We need to increasing opportunities for women, noting that the USA is the only industrialized nation in the world that does not legislate paid leave for new mothers. In addition, lack of subsidized child care for low income working mothers often force them to make hard choices.
• Need to continue to work on raising minimum wage (link to a blog by meeting attendee Rabbi Jason Kimelman-Block) to provide a living income
• Faith organizations can start “job clubs” for helpful networking and leverage the 2500 American Job Centers across the country. Some of these are even located in prison locations to assist with re-entry.
• There are grants available to faith organizations to assist with skills development, inmate re-entry programs, etc.
• One important role of faith groups are to be a voice for those with no voice and those unable to speak out
• He does understand the LGBT employment issue and supports having a national ENDA (Employment non-discrimination act.) Protection for LGBT people based upon what state they live in is not fair.
• Immigration reform has a strong impact on economic issues, and is one area that all faith groups from conservative to progressive support.

In closing, Secretary Perez asked that we do not leave the meeting as pessimists, that the facts are on our side and we can continue to work for positive progression in these issues. Civil rights is about persistence and we need to diligently persist in these areas. And he expressed deep gratitude for all our work.

In mid-October, I will write a follow on blog to discuss the unfortunate growing culture of poverty in the United States, and what business leaders can do to address it.

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