Fostering friendships among all Americans

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American Muslim

Each one teach one

Part: 1                                 AMV Executive Director Thanks
                     Fellow American friends for their support

In the past eight years hate crimes have escalated in America which comes as no surprise to me when our past president, administration, congressmen, generals, academic administrators and media are continuing their campaign to spread fear and hate towards Muslims, Arabs and South Asians by portraying them as terrorists. The results are not surprising. An average American does not come in direct contact with Muslims, Arabs and South Asians, a fact that we are partially responsible for? We are accountable for not making it our number one priority to reach out to our fellow Americans so they can get to know us. Our lack of ground level community involvement makes us a faceless figure in the minds of Americans, one that is easily painted as terrorist simply because they have no foundation from which to refute such associations.

 I truly believe that our fellow American are kind, compassionate, warm, friendly and open minded people. We need to provide them the opportunity to get to know us. It is imperative that we establish that first-hand contact with our fellow Americans and work towards life long friendship. We have been doing that for the past eight years now and would love to share the results with you.  Just as we believed they have proven to the best investment for us. We have been able to change negative image of Islam and Muslims simply by socializing, breaking the bread together and talking with them regularly. Most of them have stood by us in time of need, to fight for our civil and constitution rights.

 It is sad but true that you always hear the most horrible stories about hate crimes. There is another side to that coin too. I noticed that since post 9/11 there was a thirst to acquire first hand knowledge about Islam and Muslims in general. The Holy Quran became a best selling book in America , many people converted to Islam, and others were watching from the sidelines eager to really learn and understand something they never had the desire to before. The dialog was open and that was a great first step towards the right direction but unfortunately we never moved past this stage.

AMV Foundation was founded to take the next important and crucial step - to foster friendships among all Americans by bridging the cultural and religious gap, not just in a forum or a teach-in, but in true sense of the phrase.

We reached out to other communities who have struggled before us. We acknowledged and honored their struggles and asked for their guidance and support. We shared our ideas about bridging the gap between all communities and forming lasting friendships. We are thrilled and proud to share our achievements with you. In six years we have formed good working relationships with different communities and we are on enjoying solid lifelong friendships with them. Please check our website for specific examples of this type of interaction at work.

Though the road was not easy the support we receive and reciprocate will make our communities stronger collectively.  Through dependable sincere commitments this strength will be vital for building an inclusive and beloved nation.  We have already asked our friends to support us on numerous issues that are crucial to our freedom today and the protection of civil rights for all. Dealing with the Patriot Act, INS Special Registration, and our most important campaign against INS Special Re-Registration would not have been possible were it not for our fellow Americans putting themselves on the front lines for us. These supporting individuals of multifaith  have participated in civil disobedience events, organized protests, written their elected officials, and invested a great deal of their personal time and money in the support of our causes. We must appreciate these efforts by organizing and joining them in future battles for our causes and their too.

We have a few good Muslim organizations but they cannot change the negative image of Muslims and Islam alone. This is an enormous job that requires every Muslim to take responsibility and become a part of the solution.

AMV Foundation has a simple idea that has potential to be very effective but it will take mass mobilization and community involvement.

Before we start we must ask ourselves these questions:

1: Do we want equal rights, respect, opportunities, safety, security, freedom to practice our religion and maintain our identity and heritage?

 2: Would we like to be first class citizen and secure a bright future for our future generations?

3: What are we doing to achieve these goals?  

Each one teach one

Part: 2                                            We have a new campaign

Our slogan means that we must reach out to our fellow Americans. Each one, teach one does not mean that you start lecturing people. No, clearly that does not work. Equal acceptance and friendship can only be attained by sincere sharing of knowledge, resources, support, and communication. We need to step out of our comfort zones and take risks by opening our doors, our minds and our hearts to our neighbors, co workers and our communities where we live to actively try to establish good relationships. In the future these early seeds may blossom into wonderful sustaining friendships. We need to reach out to a new person every week, somebody you did not know before. Imagine if eight million Muslims and Arabs followed these simple guidelines we would be creating a different world. Then, if anyone starts saying "all Muslims and Arabs are terrorists" there will be millions of our friends to say "No, we know better." Currently I am enjoying the support and strength of my old and new friends. That is where the safety and security lies for all of us and our generations to come.

Remember nothing worthwhile comes easy. From the bottom of my heart I thank Allah for all my friends who make me a better person everyday. I cherish their friendships.

Here is how you can formally get involved in the friendship program:

We are trying to connect neighborhood Masajids (mosques) and other places of worship to organize social events. Here are a few examples: Barbeques, open houses, peace picnics, potlucks, cultural events, kid's parties, block parties etc. No long forums!!!!

Only informal gatherings to share day to day stories, recipes and good movies just like friends do. If you are interested please e-mail us and we will connect and assist you in achieving our goal of safe and secure neighborhoods, communities and country.

Let us work together towards creating an inclusive, peaceful and beloved world, where all of us will enjoy peace, joy, mutual respect, total acceptance... Together we can make a positive change.

"All that is required for the triumph of evil is for good [people] to do nothing." -Edmund Burke

Each one teach one

Part: 3         Appeals to all fellow Americans for their support

First of all I would like to thank all of my country men, women and youth for standing by us in this difficult time. So many of you have been supporting us by publicly speaking out against injustice and coming out on the streets to say no to the war against Iraq, Afghanistan ,  Iran and against the so called war on terror at home. You have tried to learn independently about whom we are and at times you have put yourselves on the front lines to protect our freedoms and rights.  From the bottom of my heart I thank all of you for your support, strength and friendship. I cherish your friendships and am grateful for your contributions.

 This appeal is to the rest of my dear fellow Americans. I have been trying to educate my fellow Muslims and Arabs about your open minds, your caring and compassionate hearts and your support for us.  We need more of you to send a strong and clear message to the world to stop these senseless wars, to bring our troops home, and to try to restore our freedoms and constitutional rights for all. We call ourselves a super power and champions of human rights and yet our actions grossly contradict these ideals. What is happening in Iraq , Haiti , Afghanistan , Pakistan and USA is unacceptable and we need to stop this. In my humble opinion the only chance to stop this nonsense is to weave the most beautiful diverse global network of support for one another so we can build an inclusive and beloved nation and world, so no one would ever feel alone again, not in our country. We will stand by each other and will not be silenced against social injustice, hate mongering and war machines.

 Please join our campaign "Each one. Teach one" and get to know your Muslim and Arab neighbors, co-workers, associates, or acquaintances to build meaningful friendships. Ignorance breeds fear and the only tool we have to subside fear is true knowledge about each other. Please reach out to the targeted communities. Your support provides us hope, strength, and a louder and bolder voice. Find out what activities have been planed in your area to defend our liberties and stop the war.

 Please get to know Muslims and Arabs in your area. I promise you that you will not be disappointed.

Please don’t let our name mislead you. AMV Foundation was founded by American Muslims to work for and with ALL Americans. We encourage you to join our community and peace building team.

 Best regards,

Samina Faheem Sundas
Founding Executive Director

June 21, 2009

PS. If you have an idea how we can build stronger communities and form meaningful relationships please write to us. amv@amuslimvoice.org

Here is an article that might provide some guidance and encouragement to take the first step.

           Bills of Rights Defense Committee
           Helpful hints to build bridges with Arab and
      Muslim Communities

Since September 11, 2001, people of Arab and Muslim descent living in the United States have suffered greatly from roundups and questioning, detentions, deportations, the Special Registration program called NSEERS (National Security Entry-Exit Registration System), and SEVIS (Student Exchange Visitor Information System) as well as a general backlash.

Community groups who are concerned about threats to the liberties and well-being of targeted groups such as Arab and Muslim citizens and non citizens within their community can help end the targeting by building bridges to increase social interaction and replace mutual mistrust with mutual understanding and friendship.

The first important step is to meet. In establishing contact, keep in mind that many Arab and Muslim people are justifiably fearful, so ideally it is best to establish contact via existing relationships, for example, if someone in your group already has Arab or Muslim friends, neighbors, workmates, or classmates. In the absence of such a relationship, try this:

If there is a mosque nearby, contact the mosque by telephone. Friday is the sacred day for Muslims, so 11 a.m., before Friday Prayer, is usually a good time to reach someone at the mosque. Explain that people in the community have formed a group and what its purpose is, and convey a message of understanding, feelings of concern for those who worship in the mosque who may be suffering, and an interest in meeting. Ask for suggestions of the best way to get together. For example, does the mosque have a community center, and if so, are there any public events planned that you or other members might attend? Would anyone from the mosque like to attend your group's meetings?

Trust is a big issue among people who have reason to fear visits from the FBI or INS, so you may sense reticence or skepticism about your identity. To help instill trust, consider writing a letter to the person at the mosque and listing the names of your members with their signatures. Be persistent, friendly, and patient.

Once you have overcome the first hurdles of establishing contact and gaining trust, here are some suggestions:

  • Visit Muslim and Arab neighbors and co-workers at their homes. Make them feel welcome in your neighborhood.
  • When your children have questions about Muslims or Islam, ask your Muslim neighbors and friends for the right answer.
  • Cosponsor an interfaith dialog.
  • Establish a more formal bond between a mosque and your own place of worship, and plan social events, inter-community picnics, and sports events to help people in the community get to know each other better.
  • Suggest that the public schools institute an international contact or international aid project. For example, children can write letters to children in Iraq and Afghanistan or collect and send supplies and materials to a school that is in need.
  • Invite Muslims to sit on local boards and committees.
  • Remember Muslim holidays. A good resource is Religious Tolerance.org.
  • Provide support for a family who has a member facing deportation. Organize a group to attend the deportation hearing and possibly give testimony.
  • Help a family who has a member that has been deported to his home country or another country.
  • Muslims and Arabs are very hospitable. Once you get to know them, you will enjoy their friendship. A few simple tips about Muslim culture and dress can help prevent misunderstandings:
  • When you go to the mosque, dress modestly in clothing that covers your body. (This directive is for both men and women.)
  • Most Muslim women do not shake hands or hug men.

These are a few suggestions that can help your community counteract the backlash, unfair targeting, and misunderstandings of your Arab and Muslim neighbors. Repeating these actions in communities nationwide will help prevent future targeting of innocent people by the federal government on the basis of racial and ethnic profiling.

April 2004