In October 2016, while running for the Republican nomination to the highest office in the world, Donald Trump called for blanket discrimination against all Muslim immigrants “until we figure out what’s going on.” A group of New York City Unitarian Universalists saw exactly what was going on: racism and Islamophobia.
Not in our city, we said. Not in our country. Not on our subways, in our airports or at our borders. Unitarian Universalists believe in the inherent worth and dignity of all individuals, regardless of color, creed, age, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin…. We believe in the search for truth and meaning, but only when that search is free and responsible. We believe that the light of timeless truths is present in all religious traditions, cultures and communities.
We wanted a visible, wearable symbol of our commitment to welcoming Muslims, Arabs, their descendants and their allies into our community, our city, our country. We designed this button, hoping that it would say to people threatened by dangerous Republican rhetoric that they could stand beside us, and we would stand beside them.
The button says “Peace Be With You” or “as-salaamu ‘alaikum” in Arabic. Muslims around the world, Arabic speaking and not, and Arabs across the world, Muslim and not, greet each other with this phrase, to which the appropriate response is, “wa-‘alaikum as-salaam“–and with you, peace.
As I told the children at church one morning, Peace is one of the names of God in Islamic tradition, as are Compassion and Love and Friend and Power and Mercy. In this way, “Peace be with you” is a sort of code for “God, in all his infinite variety, be with you.” It’s not dissimilar to the Catholic or Anglican priest saying “Peace be with you,” and the congregation responding, “And also with you.” In Hebrew, Jews greet each other with “Shalom” or “Shalom eleichom,” a term directly related to the Arabic.
Over the course of the intervening year and a half, there have been numerous new reasons we should show our solidarity with Muslim and Arab populations here in America and around the world. I continue to wear my pin, hoping not only that it will be a sign of my solidarity with frightened people, but also that it will spark conversations with non-Muslims about what this pin says, what it means, and why I wear it.
If you would like your own pin, you can buy it on Zazzle, and any profits I make will be put into buying pins to give away to nonprofits and like-minded people across the United States and Canada. Wear it alongside your other causes to say that Islam, Muslims, Arabs and refugees are welcome here.