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MOSES brings together Jews, Christians and Muslims politically


Ever feel frustrated that interfaith dialogue, while increasing understanding between communities, wasn’t enough?  MOSES understands.

Ever feel frustrated that interfaith dialogue, while increasing understanding between communities, wasn’t enough?  MOSES understands.{mxc}

MOSES – we’re not talking about the prophet here – stands for Metropolitan Organizing Strategy Enabling Strength.  It’s a Detroit-based organization bringing together people from Jewish, Christian and Muslim backgrounds, not only for dialogue, but for action.

"What we are trying to do long term is build a coalition that brings together the three faith groups, not just in dialogue but in direct action on the issues that unite us.  There are already enough groups that do the dialogue, but we want to work on issues that involve our common values," explained Juan Escareno, MOSES lead organizer.  "We want to deepen our relationships and not settle for superficial dialogue."

Escareno explained that it was in the best interest of different faith communities and ethnic groups that they team up if they are to challenge "narrow political ideologues" seeking to sideline them.  "If we are serious about change in society, then we have to include everyone who is being disenfranchised or isolated by the current political system," he said. 

MOSES has most notably succeeded in passing an ordinance this year that prohibits police from stopping drivers and asking for their green card.  Police had been making the stops and having drivers deported who didn’t come up with the proper documents on the spot.

Said Escareno: "We made sure that not only Mexicans but people with distinctive dress—and it didn’t really say what that was—would be protected.  We wanted to protect Muslims and worked closely with Dawud Walid who’s the executive director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations.

"Some Mexican immigrants actually were upset that we were seeking to include others such as Sikhs and Muslims, but we insisted that the largest group of people be treated fairly.  We worked for almost a year to work on the ordinance and it was passed in May, 9-0."

"We’ve worked with MOSES on a number of issues defending affirmative action in the state of Michigan and educating the public about the need for reform," said Walid. 

"There are two reasons why it’s important for an organization like CAIR to partner with MOSES.  Number one is that the American Muslim message must be made more mainstream into the general American politics.  And CAIR being affiliated with MOSES, which is a predominantly Christian organization, gives us the platform to discuss issues which are important to us.  Number two, more specifically, it’s good for Muslims that MOSES and its partners speak up on issues concerning Muslims without the Muslims speaking up alone.  For example, right now there are immigration ordinances in Hamtramck which are being pushed for.  These mainly protect Muslims and are being spearheaded by MOSES.

How is it that MOSES has been able to succeed where many others have failed?  In part it’s through a focus on bringing together and training leaders from different groups in order to mobilize on common interests.

"MOSES is an institution-based organization.  We organize institutions, not individuals.  We organize the organized.  So we try to reach out to mosques and different Islamic institutions for example.  We focus on training and issue work that leads to action," explained Escareno.

"For us, actions are the oxygen of organizations and if we are not pushing everyone forward, we die.  We are intent on pushing the people in power who are accountable to us and claim to be representing us," 

Escareno decried the painting of immigrants especially "brown people" with a broad brush, negatively. 

"If you look at the whole immigration debate, people on the right want to scare immigrants.  Everyone knows that immigrants are brown and have black hair.  Now they are scaring people by saying that these people are linked to terrorism.  Mexicans down south are painted as drug dealers who work in fields while Muslims are painted as brown-skinned terrorists."

What MOSES is trying to do is still quite new.  Not only are there obstacles that sometimes pop up from within the Jewish and Christian flocks, but also within the Muslim community. 

"I don’t think the Muslim community has really beengiven the vision or the tools to work in this kind of coalition.  More than anything, the obstacle is about all of us wanting to learn from other communities and use those examples to mimic winning strategies.  I think we can learn a lot from the civil rights movement for example," said Escareno.  He added that he hoped that misgivings would fade away as people realized how much they could benefit from inter-faith political unity, not just dialogue." said Escareno.

Said Walid: "I don’t think that a lot of community leaders and congregations even know about MOSES which leads to a bigger problem.  And many people within the Muslim community don’t even see the need for partnering with non-Muslim organizations and being involved with social justice issues that affect the broader problem.  That’s a bigger problem than not even knowing about MOSES. …

" CAIR as an organization are trying to remind the community that all issues in the American community are Muslim issues.  Everything that takes place in America affects Muslims and Islam has positions on issues part of American society.  That’s how we are going to cut down on the Islamophobia, that people in the community see us regularly and not see us as selfish who are not only concerned about their issues."

"I think that we are stronger together.  We do have differences and we are acknowledging them, but we should see where our paths intersect.  Right now, a big intersection is immigration.  There is also health care.  If we all walk this path alone, it’s going to be longer and very lonely.  I would like us to walk together so that we can be stronger," noted Escareno.

Escareno appealed to the Muslim community to attend the Gamaliel of Michigan Civil Rights for Immigrants Project (GoM-CRI) Founding Convention.  The founding convention is Michigan’s first and only statewide immigrant rights project.  "For over four months a small group of leaders have gathered and pondered the vision of a power organization that will take the rights of immigrants in Michigan to a new level.  On September 29th we will gather to make this vision a reality." 

The GoM-CRI is on September 29, from 9 am to 1 pm at the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 951.  It’s located at 30026 Research Drive, New Hudson, Michigan 48165.  Please RSVP at 313.962.5290, x20.




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