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Ohio mosque is first to join sanctuary movement

The Clifton Mosque in Cincinnati, Ohio. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

(RNS) A Cincinnati area mosque announced it would join the burgeoning church sanctuary movement in the U.S., possibly becoming the first Islamic house of worship to do so.

The announcement came on the eve of the inauguration of President Donald J. Trump, who took a hard-line stance on immigration and proposed a national Muslim registry during his campaign.

“It took us no time to decide that this was the ethical and moral thing to do,” said Imam Ismaeel Chartier, leader of the Clifton Mosque, which attracts upwards of 800 people to Friday prayers at its location near the Cincinnati Zoo. “We want to help reclaim humanity for everyone.”

Imam Ismaeel Chartier, center, at the press conference announcing the Clifton Mosque in Cincinnati, Ohio, as the first mosque in the sanctuary movement in the U.S. Photo courtesy of Clifton Mosque

Imam Ismaeel Chartier, center, with members and supporters of the Cincinnati Sanctuary Network at the press conference announcing the Clifton Mosque in Cincinnati, Ohio, as the first mosque in the sanctuary movement in the U.S. on Jan. 18, 2017. Photo courtesy of Tana Weingartner/WVXU.  *Editors: This photo is not available to republish.

More than 800 U.S. congregations have joined the sanctuary movement — a promise by churches, synagogues and now, mosques, to shield undocumented immigrants from deportation and other government actions, even to the point of violating the law.  Rev. Noel Anderson of the Church World Service, which organizes the sanctuary movement, said the Clifton mosque is likely the first mosque to actually open its doors to undocumented immigrants, but that other mosques have supported the movement in other ways.

Dallas-based Imam Omar Suleiman, an adjunct professor at Southern Methodist University, said Islamic history and scripture supports the participation of Muslims in the sanctuary movement.


READ: Sanctuary congregations have doubled since Trump election, say faith leaders


Imam Omar Suleiman, associate professor of religious studies at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Photo courtesy of Omar Suleiman

Imam Omar Suleiman, associate professor of religious studies at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Photo courtesy of Omar Suleiman

“It starts with the verse in the Quran where God says we honor the children of Adam and every person is a child of Adam,” he said. “And if the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, and his followers had not been taken in by the people of Medina when they had to flee Mecca, he probably would have been killed in Mecca,” essentially ending the religion before it spread.

Suleiman is helping to organize a national call to Muslim leaders and mosques to join the sanctuary movement. He is also helping to create a webinar that will provide them with resources to establish themselves as a sanctuary.

In Cincinnati, the Clifton Mosque will join Christ Church Cathedral, an Episcopal community in downtown Cincinnati, in shielding and supporting any immigrants who seek help from and pass a screening by a local branch of Interfaith Worker Justice.

Another five local houses of worship have pledged themselves “in solidarity with” the sanctuary congregations, and will potentially provide money, food, clothing, transportation and more. They include a Jewish congregation, a Methodist church and a nondenominational Christian church.

Chartier said his congregation, which was the victim of a pipe bombing about a decade ago, knows what it is to feel like “punching bags.” That, he said, makes them suited to help those seeking sanctuary.

“We have really adopted a heavy policy of social justice,” he said. “It was already a part of us, but we made it a foundational principle to found our community on.”

Suleiman said mosques have “extra considerations” to ponder about the sanctuary movement.

“The same hatred that is channeling itself in one ugly way towards so many of the undocumented immigrants has also manifested itself in attacks on mosques,” he said. “So one way of thinking is maybe we don’t need to bring more hardship when we are already so vulnerable. But my response to that is unless we all bond together we will all become weaker.”

About the author

Kimberly Winston

Kimberly Winston is a freelance religion reporter based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

12 Comments

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  • This group is no doubt joining the sanctuary movement out of loyalty to liberal Christians who started the sanctuary movement in the first place. I imagine they would also like to harvest a few converts to Islam in the process. Liberal Christians are easy prey in the beginning until they learn that Muslims have strict laws about sexuality and the role of women! It’s gonna be the same story when those Mexican bandits sheltered by this movement, suddenly learn that these Muslims cut off the hands of those who steal! (Where did that line of possible converts run off to?!)

    Affirming that obscure quote from the Quaran that says “we honor the children of Adam,” is really comical! Muslims in the Mideast are doing their best to kill as many “children of Adam” as they can. Killing is the ultimate expression of dishonor!

  • If you don’t like the law that there is a process to permanently enter this country, than work to change the law. All these people are doing is ensuring that those who follow the proper procedures to come here look like idiots while they reward law-breakers. Are mosques encouraging law breaking? Apparently so.

  • Good for Clifton Mosque. It’s an ancient line several thousand years old of cities and houses of worship providing sanctuary. It’s one of earliest creations of the Hebrew people in the Promised Land on the order of god.

  • As I have stated before, for many there isn’t. Your ignorance on the subject is at this point willful. Immigration law is not criminal law. Equating its violation with the acts of criminals is also a point of ignorance on your part, which has been presented to you before.

    Your POV seems to be dependent on utter ignorance of the laws and system you are claiming to uphold and protect.

  • As is the case with all religions. Parts of society where authority is unquestioned always leads to the rise of miscreants. Religions demand unquestioned loyalty to their leaders as the spokespeople for God(s). It opens the door for a ton of abuse.

    The people who do the most to prop up extremists are the ones who equate them with the entire faiths. Much like Fundamentalist Christians consider themselves the only Christians out there, Islamicists do the same for Islam. People who follow along with such fictions, enable them. Too bad for both groups this is more of an act than reality.

  • As for Islam and reality, you ought to do some research on the effects of Muslim mass migration in Europe. The less savory aspects of Islam are more the rule than you may want to believe.

  • And, read the Qu’ran. I have. Check out the multitude of places where it advocates the cheating, deceiving, raping, and murdering of nonbelievers.

  • My research has led me to conclude self professed experts at Islam to be pretty naff and fairly ignorant of basic facts and history. Copying and pasting alleged Koran quotes does not equal knowing squat about the faith

    They try nonsense arguments and statements about the religion they have zero to do with its practice. They use the terrorist enabling generalizations to equate the entire religion with its most extreme members. They have no conclusion beyond the stupid call for genocide, mass conversion or discrimination of all 1.4 billion Muslims.

    Mass migration is a term people use when they want to claim immigration is something to be demonized. It’s a loaded term for people who demonstrate bigotry against immigrants. Europeans cause their own problems with immigration by failing to come up with sane naturalization policies, tying national identity to ethnicity/race/religion and failing to understand basic concepts of religious freedom.

    A saner look is how things are done right. Using Muslim enclaves in the US as examples. Unlike their European counterparts, they are not multi generation slums and ghettos. They are usually adjacent to people’s who are warring elegant Muslims in other countries, yet peacefully coexist. They produce our best weapon against Islamicist terrorism. Loyal Muslim Americans who understand freedoms.

    But what you had previously said about Islam applies to all religions.

  • Reading the Bible doesn’t tell you anything about the religious practice of Jews and Christians. It certainly doesn’t tell you why Jews find the OT as justification for charity and humane treatment of others while Christians use it to justify bigotry and draconian judgmental behavior. It doesn’t tell you how texts are used in the formation of religious codes of ethics. It doesn’t tell you how believers traditionally or contemporaneously interpret the text.

    The Bible has plenty of passages advocating mayhem upon nonbelievers as well. Please don’t insult my intelligence by denying such passages exist or must be treated differently from ones you claim to read in the Koran.

    So don’t give me this, “I read quotemines of the Koran from a hate site so I am an expert in Islam” bullshit. Such tactics would never fly for any other faith. They don’t here.

  • “Muslims have strict laws about sexuality and the role of women”

    So it is indistinguishable from your christian faith other than use of texts and ceremony.

    Apparently familiarity breeds contempt.

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