“In order for battles to be won, battles have to take place,” said Imam Khalid Latif about those who remain “passive” in the fight for equality. This was the cornerstone of Latif’s lecture hosted by the Cornell Muslim Educational and Cultural Association on Wednesday.
The lecture, which addressed the prevalence of stereotyping against Muslims, was hosted in commemoration of Islamic Awareness Week.
Latif serves as chaplain for the Islamic Center at New York University and is the youngest chaplain to be appointed for the New York City Police Department. His advocacy for co-existence and leadership in New York City and communities throughout the United States, Europe and Egypt have brought him recognition from various media outlets and several academic institutions.
He began his lecture by recounting his experience meeting Pope Francis, praising the Pope’s decision to “go off script” in a sermon at St. Patrick’s Cathedral to express sympathy for the “700 Muslims who had died on the pilgrimage to the Hajj in Mecca” in the aftermath of the 2015 incident.
He then recounted his personal experience of being racially targeted by the Secret Service at a 9/11 memorial ceremony which he attended when he was a police inspector.
“They questioned not only my presence at the event, but my emotional connection and validity,” he said. “Hundreds of eyes were watching and no one said anything, until a mother of someone who had died in 9/11 told them, ‘What you are doing is more dishonoring than anything else.’”
Latif began a broader discussion of the importance of using “privilege” to assist disadvantaged and marginalized members of society.
“Think about that mother who leveraged her power and privilege to serve someone underprivileged because it was the right thing to do,” he said.
Latif continued, saying that the “perpetuation of biased mindsets” is “not only the fault of those who are driven by their own self interests,” but also of those who remain “passive.”
This segregation of people along ethnic and cultural lines, he said, among other divisive factors, further contributes to stereotyping and marginalization.
“People consumed in their own self interests cast fear and build narratives of people different than themselves,” he said. “For example, people find out what Muslims are like not by being with them, but by buying into what people say in the media.”
“We need to recognize that anti-minority sentiment has its roots in structure, and the biggest challenges in this country have been and continue to be race and class,” he added.
Latif finished with a message for Muslims to “speak out against inequitous policies” and to interact with people of diverse backgrounds.
“If we came together and collaborated with brothers and sisters of other communities, everyone would find themselves in a place stronger than they would have believed,” he said.