San Jose comes out in solidarity with local Muslims
Supportive crowd gathering at the Evergreen Islamic Center in San Jose. Vergil Lewis | PW

SAN JOSE, Calif., Dec. 11—Hundreds of people of all faith traditions and world views came together at the Evergreen Islamic Center in San Jose to express their solidarity with the local Muslim community, which had been the target of a hate letter. The letter invoked the name of Donald Trump as “the new sheriff in town” who would “do to you Muslims what Hitler did to the Jews.” The Evergreen mosque was the first recipient of the letter, signed “Americans for a Better Way,” that was subsequently sent to mosques elsewhere in California and to several other states.

A host of religious and political leaders spoke at the rally. Rabbi Dana Magat of San Jose Temple Emanu-El opened the event with the reminder that “we are all Jews, we are all Muslims, we are all one.” This theme of unity was sounded throughout the event. Former San Jose vice mayor Rose Herrera told the crowd, “Now is not the time to shrink back; now is the time to reach out.” She told of a mosque in Redmond, Washington, that had its marble sign smashed and immediately, with full support from the local community, built a new one. Girish Shah, a leader in the local Jain community, also called on the community to step out in action, pointing out that nonviolence—a pillar of the Jain religion—is not passive, but always active.

The diversity of the crowd was a reflection of the diversity of San Jose and of Santa Clara County. Looking from the rear, this writer saw many Jewish yarmulkes, Muslim hijabs (headscarves), Indian saris, and people of all cultures and ethnicities. Dave Cortese, President of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, told of attending the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Australia, where the County was given an award as one of the six communities in the world that excelled in interreligious harmony and cooperation.

Ash Kalra, a former San Jose city councilperson who recently beat out, with strong labor support, a business-backed candidate who outspent him two-to-one for a seat in the state Assembly, drew loud applause when he reported a recent Assembly resolution declaring that California will continue supporting and projecting all its diverse communities, even in defiance of the incoming Trump administration.

San Jose mayor Sam Liccardo likewise drew cheers and applause when he said to the Muslim and immigrant communities especially “we’ve got your back.” He promised free legal counsel to immigrants threatened by deportation and pledged that San Jose police with not cooperate with Federal immigration agents. He said also, as did several other speakers, that if Trump attempted to institute a registry of Muslims he would be the first to sign up, and he reported, again to loud applause, that he would shortly be meeting with other mayors to confer on measures they would take to protect their communities from any “aggression” from the Trump administration.

Returning to the theme of nonviolence at the end of the rally, Evergreen’s imam Tahir Anwar quoted Martin Luther King: “Love is the only force capable of turning an enemy into a friend.” It was clear from the speakers and the crowd that their love was by no means sentimental or passive; both seemed ready and determined for action to meet any challenge from the Trump regime.


Henry Millstein
Henry Millstein

Hank Millstein is a long-time peace and labor activist. He's a fiction writer and journalist and a member of the National Writers Union.