Shoulder to Shoulder is a national coalition-based campaign of religious denominations and faith-based organizations and communities that are committed to ending discrimination and violence against Muslims in the United States by equipping, connecting, and mobilizing faith leaders to effectively take action.
Shoulder to Shoulder envisions an America where people of all faith and cultural backgrounds are treated respectfully, fairly, and with dignity.
Through Shoulder to Shoulder, we advance our vision by directly engaging faith leaders in the United States to be strategic partners in countering discrimination and violence against Muslims.
Why We Exist: Understanding the Problem
Discrimination, violence and bias against Muslims in the US are driven by several factors, including disproportionately negative media coverage of Muslims, negative political rhetoric, and a well-funded industry aimed at spreading misinformation and fear. Many Americans lack the relationships with Muslims and the knowledge about Islam to dispel false claims.
Anti-Muslim bigotry is not just theoretical. The widespread misinformation and fear lead to hate crimes, vandalism, bullying, and other forms of violence against Muslims, along with anti-Muslim legislation that curtails the civil rights and freedoms of Americans who are Muslim. The effects of anti-Muslim rhetoric and views have devastating impacts on our Muslim neighbors.
Here's what we're doing about it.
Shoulder to Shoulder trains, resources and empowers faith leaders to address anti-Muslim bigotry within their own communities and in American society
Shoulder to Shoulder builds networks at local and national levels to advance a multi-faith infrastructure of solidarity and community resilience to bigotry and hate
Shoulder to Shoulder mobilizes faith voices in the public square through advocacy and media efforts on anti-Muslim discrimination
In 2010, at the height of a wave of anti-Muslim rhetoric and hate in the United States, Rev. Richard Killmer, then with the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, and Dr. Mohamed Elsanousi, then with the Islamic Society of North America, devised a plan to gather high level U.S. faith leaders to collectively address this crisis.
Rev. Killmer and Dr. Elsanousi organized 40 heads of Christian, Jewish and other religious denominations and faith-based organizations, including the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops, the Union for Reform Judaism, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, The Episcopal Church, the National Council of Churches, and many more at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., to publicly commit themselves to standing against anti-Muslim bigotry and to work toward the American ideals of religious freedom and pluralism. The meeting, which included a press conference and the release of a joint statement, gave birth to Shoulder to Shoulder, and many of the faith groups present joined the organization as founding members shortly thereafter. The joint statement and the founding organizations can be viewed here.
Rich and Mohamed served as co-chairs of the organization for several years and provided leadership as the organization structure was created and grew in capacity. In the early years, the co-founders convened the denominations and other religious organizations listed above, raised funds for the organization, secured ISNA as the fiscal and administrative agent, hired staff, and provided leadership to programmatic efforts. The founding organizations continue to play an important role in Shoulder to Shoulder. Their ownership of the organization from the beginning has been critical to the significant impact the Campaign has been able to have as an interfaith coalition. Several representatives from founding organizations serve on the Executive Committee as a sign of continued support and leadership.
"The Shoulder to Shoulder campaign is the institutional embodiment of the biblical injunction to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Wherever hate speech and incitement against Islam and other religions erupts, Shoulder to Shoulder stands firm to teach love instead of hate. S2S enacts American values in an interfaith coalition and so, reinforces the great fabric of America."
— Rabbi Burton L. Visotzky, Ph.D.
Director, Milstein Center for Interreligious Dialogue, Jewish Theological Seminary