On October 11th an arsonist tried to set the building of the Islamic Center of Tacoma. Fire crews arrived quickly and put the blaze out, but the building was damaged. Even before the smoke had cleared the community was receiving offers by neighboring communities of wisdom to use their buildings. A Lutheran church with a long relationship with the mosque and an Episcopal church are hosting prayers until another site can be rented.

On Friday I attended the prayers to offer our support and encouragement to the Muslim community in Tacoma. I spoke to one young man who was leading prayers when the fire broke out. His concern was primarily for all those who are feeling fearful at this act of hate. “How was it for you,” I asked. “It was scary and sad, but God doesn’t care where we pray. We will keep praying.”

Imam Abdulhakim Mohamed preached a sermon with equal measures of resilience and compassion.

“From one act of hate, a multitude of love has occurred.”

He spoke with gratitude for all the communities of wisdom, the civic leaders, and neighbors who were showing their love for the Muslim community.

Of course, this kind of crime has impacts far beyond the building. Some Muslim families had not left their home all week. Hate crimes are intended to intimidate an entire community. These kinds of crimes are perpetrated to symbolize that an entire community is unsafe. All the more reason and all the more powerful that so many other leaders have reached out with offers of help.

We are seeing increasing hate crimes and political violence in our nation, primarily by those on the right of the political spectrum. How we respond to it and forge durable bonds with each other will be key to what kind of nation we will be in ten years.

After spending some wonderful time getting to know many people at the Tacoma Islamic Center, my spouse and I went down to the Tacoma Reconciliation Park. There we saw a quote from the Rev. W.D. McFarland who was among the few public leaders who opposed the expulsion of Chinese from Tacoma in 1885. As his congregation left the pews in protest of his sermon, he said: “Go! Go! I will preach on ’till the benches are empty.”

Today, we are in a much better position than in 1885. There are many more who are actively standing up for one another in an environment in which exclusion is, once again, at work.

I told many of the members there what I have said repeatedly to American Muslims over the last 6 years: “you have more friends than you know.” The leaders and communities of wisdom in Tacoma can be an inspiration to all of us, to not only feel friendship and welcome, but to make it known to our neighbors by being in relationship with them.

If you want to contribute to the rebuilding of the Islamic Center go here.