RPCVs from Morocco in Opposition to Islamophobia

I received this Petition from Sharon Keld (Morocco 2006-08) and Ann Eisenberg (Morocco 2006-08) who wrote me “Many of my RPCV colleagues were individually speaking out against Islamophobia and in support of Syrian refugees on social media, drawing from their Peace Corps service in Morocco.  A few of us agreed that the RPCV perspective could have a more powerful impact if we spoke out together, so we drafted the open letter and are circulating it in petition form.  We felt we had an important point of view and a unique duty to speak out as members of a very small group of Americans who have lived and engaged in public service in majority-Muslim countries for non-military reasons.

Here is the link to the petition that I have copied below:https://www.change.org/p/the-american-public-statement-in-support-of-syrian-refugees-and-in-opposition-to-islamophobia?recruiter=452278202&utm_source=share_for_starters&utm_medium=copyLink

Petitioning The American Public

Statement in Support of Syrian Refugees and in Opposition to Islamophobia

Concerned Returned Peace Corps Volunteers

Sec of State Kerry Swearing In Moroccoan PCVs

Secretary of State John Kerry swearing-in new Moroccan PCVs

We, the undersigned returned United States Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs), urge United States lawmakers, governors, and other public figures to approach the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis with the spirit of peace and understanding that the Peace Corps was established to promote.  We urge the American people to do the same.

President John F. Kennedy created the Peace Corps in 1961 in order to involve Americans more actively in promoting peace, development, and freedom around the world.  Among the goals of the Peace Corps is the aim to improve Americans’ understanding of people from other countries.  To date, approximately 220,000 Americans have served overseas in the name of peace.

As Peace Corps Volunteers, many of us served in predominantly Muslim countries.  Peace Corps programs, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, have often been among very few, large-scale, non-military American involvements in predominantly Muslim countries.  We therefore offer a unique perspective, as many Americans do not have the opportunity to visit and learn about countries such as Morocco, Mali, Tunisia, Jordan, Senegal, Albania, Indonesia, or their neighbors.

We have drafted this letter to contribute to voices in the public discourse promoting values of peace and tolerance in a difficult time globally.  We consider it our duty to help clarify misunderstandings among Americans about Muslim populations.  Many of us do this on a daily basis in our interpersonal interactions, but recent events have made clear that we must speak out as a group.

We are alarmed by the recent surge in Islamophobic rhetoric by American public figures.  Proposals by presidential candidate Donald Trump that Muslims be barred from the United States or forced to register with the state and carry identification cards are repugnant to the United States Constitution and international law.  Other presidential candidates’ proposals that refugees undergo religion tests are similarly repugnant.  Hate speech such as this has no place in the public discourse in America and must be condemned by other public figures and average citizens.

The hospitality and kindness we experienced as Americans living in the Middle East, West and North Africa, Eastern Europe, and Asia was consistent and profound.  We shared homes, meals, sorrows, and joys with our Muslim host families, friends, and counterparts.  We worked together on development projects.  Some of us fell in love and married people from our host countries.  With most of us in western clothing, with mixed language skills and diverse faiths, we were welcomed with tolerance and generosity.  We would like for our home country to demonstrate the same magnanimousness and openness that we experienced abroad.

For the United States to remain a beacon of freedom and tolerance around the world, it must adopt a reasoned and compassionate approach to the Syrian refugee crisis.  Syrians are fleeing war and chaos.  Penalizing them based on the actions of a small minority of outliers is unreasonable and cruel, and will have dire consequences.  Generalizations, misinformation, slurs, and fear-mongering will only foment more chaos and pain.  For this situation and in general, Islamophobic rhetoric and policy proposals must stop.

We also believe that welcoming Syrian refugees into our country is in the best interest of the United States.  First, it will improve our reputation internationally.  Relationships based on hospitality are essential to mitigating mutual fear and hatred, as we have seen firsthand living in regions that often have strained relations with the United States.  Second, in light of immigrants’ and refugees’ strong tradition of industriousness and entrepreneurialism in the United States, we believe a more open policy would benefit the American economy.

Americans who are fearful of social groups with whom they have not interacted can use local returned Peace Corps Volunteers as a resource.  RPCVs have an unquantifiable well of stories of hospitality, generosity, friendship, and love from all over the world.

Sincerely,

YOUR NAME

15 Comments

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  • Bravo! An important statement for the ongoing discourse regarding how we deal with the negative rhetoric directed at Muslims in our media today. And how we become part of the solution….

    Mark Walker, RPCV Guatemala 1971-73

  • This is brilliant, thanks to Sharon and Ann, and all your colleagues in Peace Corps for this beautifully written testament. I signed and shared it today.

    Also, I was working on a piece that I scrapped last night before I went to bed. But after reading your wonderful words, I completed the following this morning. Thanks and best!

    Pitch with Us Tolerance, Freedom and Peace

    Pitch with us tolerance, freedom and peace.
    In churches, synagogues, temples and mosques
    As we stand next to our neighbors at home
    And abroad, we must choose our words wisely.
    In Morocco, Mali, throughout Asia,
    Eastern Europe, across the Middle East
    Peace Corps Volunteers are welcome in homes
    And communities. We live. We love. We
    Learn we are one. Humanitarians
    Working in Turkey, Greece and Syria
    Attest the same. As networks spin on news
    Cycles, Islamophobic Rhetoric
    Soils both sides with multi-verse chit-chatter.
    Pitch with us tolerance, freedom and peace.

    J.D. (RPCV Morocco 84-87)

  • I very much support this. The people of Sierra Leone have a unique melding of Muslim, Christian, tribal and animist points of view.

  • I signed.
    The Cameroon constitution states that if the elected President is Muslim, the Vice President shall be Christian. And vice versa.
    When I served the President was Ahmadou Ahidjo, and the Vice President was Paul Muna.
    West African muslims crossed the Sahara to Mecca annually at a time when the English were living in caves.

  • I served in Ethiopia from 1962-1964. A lot of me students were of the Islamic faith.
    I fully support accepting my muslin brothers and sisters into America.

  • Thank you very much for drafting this letter. Many of us RPCVs have been wanting to take action that would amplify the words and sentiments expressed here. Thank you for this wonderful initiative. And may our voices of support for Muslim communities around the world continue to be loud. Catherine Bachy, Morocco RPCV 1985-1987.

  • Thanks for providing a reminder of the Peace in Peace Corps. Such a timely reminder of how graciousness and tolerance are the greatest gifts we give and receive.

  • On the brink of the new year, as of today, number of Brits signing on to a petition to ban Trump from the UK: 566,320. Number of nearly 220,000 US RPCVs signing on to the petition above to lambast Trump and all other islamophobic rhetoric: 187.

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