On June 21st, a hate group placed an ad in our local newspaper that attempted to spread disinformation and Islamophobia. It reminded us all of why we are committed to our work at Millions and why we must stand up against hate. In lieu of our typical newsletter, we have attached our Tennessean opinion editorial in response to this ad. Please use us as a resource as we move forward into this crucial time in our country’s history. I have an immense amount of hope, for all of us.

We must fight hate and disinformation together: a response to the ad in the Tennessean

A thief named Hate visited these pages on Sunday. Disguised in the form of an offensive advertisement placed by a fringe doomsday group, it tried again to steal the soul of our community by dividing us. This advertisement slanderously employed religious rhetoric to claim that “Islam” was going to harm our community.

Sadly, like many Tennesseans, I have encountered this same thief before, and it has stolen precious moments from my own family and community. I’ve even personally been wounded and scarred by it through vicious disinformation campaigns that demonized my existence. 

Separatist groups call upon Hate when communities are working their hardest to bridge divides. History gives us ample evidence for Hate’s tactics. On Sunday, June 21, Hate weaponized the same playbook it uses in this deadly game.

The thief called Hate paid The Tennessean to strategically place a full-page ad with language that would trigger fear across our communities. Hate chose Muslims as its target, and it weaponized our religion, Islam.

We are exhausted at condemning hate

My Muslim sisters and brothers were furious when they read that our religion had once again been used to otherize, marginalize, and instill fear in our fellow Tennesseans.

My Catholic sisters and brothers were also in pain when they saw their leader on Earth depicted in this call for Hate.

Like many different marginalized communities throughout the United States, Hate has chosen us before. Hate has stolen from each of us, we are tired of condemning it, and we are exhausted with it continuing to steal without punishment. To Hate, and all its followers, know this: We are done being politicized, used and abused. We are tired because we know that all of us deserve better.

Running this disinformation ad was more than a lapse in judgment. Disinformation is Hate’s primary tool in today’s environment as it continues to mislead communities as COVID-19 spreads rapidly around our country.

Millions of Conversations is working to dispel false narratives  

That is why I founded Millions of Conversations, a nationwide nonprofit organization based in Nashville that transcends divides and brings Americans together. At Millions of Conversations, we fight disinformation by producing counter-content that dispels false narratives about our fellow Americans.

We do this by partnering with bridge-building groups and encouraging citizens to engage with trustworthy information and challenge their preconceived ideas about other communities.

“Islam” is not a threat to our country. Those who wish to use hate and fear to inspire violence against their fellow citizens are the threat. This is not a new threat: 182 years ago, Abraham Lincoln warned that America could never be conquered by a foreign power, but that “if destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher.”

We cannot be our own finishers. We must focus on the real national security threats to our community — COVID-19, systemic racism and polarization.

Our shared future must, once and for all, address the wrongs of our past and include a social contract around norms and values that makes us stronger and protect our democracy. In this dire moment, we are defined by our common bonds.

We can unite to build again, and we must begin today — by addressing the disinformation that causes Hate.

We have a moral responsibility. We see you, Hate, and we are here to say in unison, “You are the only thing not welcomed here in a state known for its hospitality and welcoming spirit. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not any day.” We answer and defeat Hate, not with more vitriol, but with the power of community and common purpose.

With Love,
Samar Ali

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