SHAFAQNA – About 400 people traveled to Cedar Rapids’ Mother Mosque on Sunday to form a circle around the building and show their support for Muslims.
The event was organized in part by Erin Bustin of Grinnell. Bustin said she wanted to find a way to show her support for Muslims after mosques around the country were vandalized or sent hate mail in recent months, and after President Donald Trump signed executive orders banning citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the U.S.
Bustin said she also disagreed with Rep. Steve King’s recent tweet referring to Muslims. “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies,” the tweet said.
Bustin said she wanted Muslims to know Iowans support them. She reached out to the Rev. Wendy Abrahamson in Grinnell. The two began planning the multifaith rally with Imam Taha Tawil, the leader of the Mother Mosque in Cedar Rapids.
Their plans came to fruition on a soggy Sunday afternoon, as hundreds of Iowans of various ethnicities and faiths filled the mosque’s lawn, overflowing onto the sidewalks. One group even traveled from Chicago, Bustin said.
Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Hindus, Meskwaki Native Americans, atheists and Christians spoke at the event to show support for Muslims and religious freedom. After the speeches, the group sang “This Land is Your Land” and formed a symbolic human shield around the small, white building.
Tawil said he was thankful the group could share values of “pluralism, diversity, acceptance and tolerance” at the Mother Mosque, which was built in 1936 and is one of the longest-standing mosques in North America.
“We are not going back in the dark past where civil war and human rights violations has divided our communities,” Tawil said.
Abrahamson shared scripture from the Bible, saying the verses showed how various religious traditions are all methods of serving the same God.
“In one beautiful section, Paul says, ‘It’s not like the hand can say to the foot: I don’t need you,’ ” Abrahamson quoted. “By design, God has made multiple parts that all function differently, and if we were all the same, it simply would not work. I think this translates really well into the American project.”
Donnielle Wanatee, a Meskwaki, said she understands how Muslim communities might feel oppressed because it wasn’t until 1978 that a federal mandate granted Native Americans the right to practice their beliefs.
“It’s going to be OK,” Wanatee said. “We have to unite as a people. I will defend anybody. This is my Iowa, and it doesn’t work without all of you in it.”
Sara Sayed, a Muslim from Cedar Rapids, said she was overwhelmed by the amount of support. She said the event was an opportunity for all Iowans to stand against prejudice.
“It’s an (opportunity) for everybody else to say I’m not a part of this, just like when I see any violence (committed by a Muslim), I say … ‘I’m not a part of that,’ ” Sayed said. “It’s up to each one of us to keep up this momentum.”