*Participant quotes are taken from memory and are paraphrased.
On May 10, we held an event in Longmeadow, Massachusetts with Critical Connections, as part of our jointly organized Muslims in America: Dialogues Across Divides series. It was a public dialogue called "American Heretics: the History of Religious Intolerance in America," with two experts adding substance to the discussion: Peter Gottschalk, a scholar of religion and religious intolerance at Wesleyan, and Tahirah Amatul-Wadud, a nationally recognized attorney and civil rights advocate who currently legally represents the hamlet of Islamberg, New York. We named the event after Gottschalk's book, American Heretics: Catholics, Jews, Muslims, and the History of Religious Intolerance.
Two days before our event, we became aware of negative comments appearing in response to a local newspaper article that advertised it online, and related our planned event to ongoing issues of hate speech against the local Muslim community. “I'm not going in support!! I'm going to protest!!” one person wrote in the comments section. “Muslims do not belong on USA soil. They all support terrorists!!” But despite the possibility of disruptions or threats, we decided to go ahead with the event—and what resulted was deeply meaningful.