May 13, 2019
The Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee notes with concern the use of the Waukesha County Exposition Center this past weekend by a group purporting to be a “Security Conference,” but with a roster of speakers who are known to have repeatedly engaged in virulent hate speech against Muslims as a group.
The IFCGM mourned with the Sikh community after the shooting in Oak Creek in 2012. In the last two years, we have prayed with the Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities after the violent events in Pittsburgh, California, Louisiana, Sri Lanka, and New Zealand. We have stood in solidarity with our local communities of faith as America faces renewed waves of white supremacy, Islamophobia and antisemitism. We condemn all forms of speech that judge people on the basis of their race, religion, gender, or any other generalizing factor that ignores the dignity of the individual human being that underlies the solidarity of the human community.
We are concerned that individuals indulging in hate speech have come to consider Waukesha County a friendly venue. While we appreciate the issues that flow from public facilities and free speech, we note that there are limits to which groups are given the implicit support of facility use. We would encourage the Waukesha County government to review its facility use policies to determine whether such use accords with the values of Waukesha County and its voters. If Waukesha County is “Leading the Way,” as its vision statement and logo proclaim, it must determine the direction that leadership is going in a time when minority groups are under increasing threat of persecution and violence.
We furthermore call upon the leadership of Waukesha County to issue statements explicitly affirming the welcome place of American Muslims and people of all minority races, religions, and ethnicities as residents of Waukesha County. Considering the virulence of the hate speech used in the past by the organizers and presenters who contracted to speak inside a county facility this past weekend, this intentional acknowledgment by our elected leaders of the contributions of American Muslims to the culture, civic life, and economy of Waukesha County is warranted.
The Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee is a 49-year-old nonprofit organization through which the regional leaders and adherents of 18 faiths and denominations: dialogue to build relationships; counter hate and fear with programming that fosters understanding, tolerance, and friendship; and work together on social issues to help create a better society for everyone.