"We are One" Campaign for Workers' Rights begins April 1.
By Hussam Ayloush
National Board Member, Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ)
Executive Director, Council on American-Islamic Relations, Greater Los Angeles Area (CAIR-LA)
A phrase often repeated in the Qu’ran is “those who believe and do righteous good deeds.” This phrase usually describes a great reward for those who demonstrate their faith by engaging in righteous good deeds.
As people of faith, it is our responsibility to put our faith into action whenever injustice is being perpetuated. Today, I want to share with you a campaign that deserves our attention and response.
In Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Maine, New York, New Jersey, and Florida, the fundamental right of workers – public sector workers in particular—to organize is being questioned and threatened by right-wing ideologues and political leaders. While many Americans are feeling the pinch in our pocketbooks, it is at this very critical moment that we must reaffirm the rights and protect the wellbeing of hard-working public sector employees and middle-class families. We all rely on those honest and dedicated workers, such as teachers, police officers, firefighters, bus drivers, and public health workers, to provide us with essential services. Today, they are relying on us to ensure a dignified living for themselves and their families.
Treating workers justly and protecting their rights is supported by the teachings of Islam and other faiths. Islamic teachings regarding the rights and responsibilities of the worker and employer toward each other have been outlined with utmost precision. If we work for our living, whether as an employee or as an employer, it is our duty to understand and safeguard the rights of workers wherever they may be.
Of these principles, the right of workers to unionize and organize for their mutual interests is paramount. As we are watching our brothers and sisters (of all faiths) standing up for their fundamental right to have a say in their future in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and many other places, right here in our own country we have workers facing dire situations where they are being forced to choose between feeding their families and having just working conditions. This is a choice no American should ever have to make.
As people of faith, the burden is on us to act. During the week of April 1-4, the faith communities are being asked to stand alongside civil rights organizations, labor unions, and people from coast to coast under the banner We Are One to advocate for working families. To some this might be an easy decision; for others it could be a wakeup call to stand with those workers often not thought of because their contributions are often missed or taken for granted.
So what can we do? I recommend that all imams designate the Friday sermon (Khutba), on April 1 (April 8 is fine too), to this important topic and what the Muslim community can do to support the rights of workers. I also propose the Muslim community hold teach-ins at their local Islamic centers and mosques to educate congregants, as well as friends of other faiths, about the current situation faced by so many American workers. Furthermore, I encourage the community to mobilize support by honoring those in our communities we often overlook: our teachers, who are responsible for providing the tools and guidance necessary for the navigation of a world of learning and infinite possibilities.
Let us live by the Islamic ethics of compassion, justice, and honesty. Let us be part of the political, economic, and social struggle to defend workers’ rights to fair living wages, healthcare, a safe work environment, the right to organize, and the right to enjoy religious freedom. Let us be a living embodiment of the faith we profess.
And, while we continue to advance a cause we believe is just, based on principle, let us not forget about our most valuable asset, prayer. God says in the Qu’ran ““When My servants ask about Me, I am indeed close to them. I listen to the prayer of every supplicant, when he calls on Me. Let them also, with a will, listen to My call, and believe in Me, so that they may walk in the right way” (Qur’an 2:186).
I pray that Allah (God) purify our hearts from greed, anger, and apathy. And I pray that all Americans unite in appreciating our workers and supporting justice and a respectable life for them.
- Hussam Ayloush
- Hussam has been a lifelong human rights activist who is passionate about promoting democratic societies, in the US and worldwide, in which all people, including immigrants, workers, minorities, and the poor enjoy freedom, justice, economic justice, respect, and equality. Mr. Ayloush frequently lectures on Islam, media relations, civil rights, hate crimes and international affairs. He has consistently appeared in local, national, and international media. Full biography at: http://hussamayloush.blogspot.com/2006/08/biography-of-hussam-ayloush.html