When Donald Trump officially became the Republican candidate for President, the idea for a Muslim-Latino Collaborative was born. “We had a candidate who said that Latinos are rapists, and Muslims are terrorists,” Shakeel Syed, one of the leaders of the collaborative, says. After the election, the idea turned into resolve, and a group of Southern California Muslims and Latinos, who had already been working together on civil rights and criminal justice issues, “came up with a solidarity statement expressing their determination to present a united front,” and publicly repudiate the outrageous lies and slurs being hurled at them by the President-elect.
The group announced their formation on Inauguration Day in Orange County, just after Trump delivered his Inaugural Address. Their news conference garnered a great deal of press, and Syed says the reaction was surprising. “The support has been overwhelming and beyond what we ever envisioned,” he says.
Syed is a member of the DPF board of directors. He is also the executive director of the Orange County Communities Organized for Responsible Development.
“I have been privileged to be part of both the [Muslim and Latino] communities for 20 years and it is a privilege to bring both communities together,” Syed says. He expects the collaborative to grow beyond Orange County, and to include other marginalized groups because “the wrath of the shameless administration has not been restricted to these two groups. This table deserves to be expanded to include Asian, LGBTQ, African-Americans, other people of color.” In fact, when news of the alliance broke, Syed heard from other communities around the country, eager to form their own collaboratives.
When the Muslim-Latino Collaborative formed in December it was composed of five organizations; that number has grown to 14. The plan is for the clergy and lay leaders of the group to meet every two months, and to hold community quarterly meetings every year “to share stories of joy and sorrow, and the trials and tribulations involved in working for the greater good,” Syed says.
While he admits to occasionally feeling a sense of hopelessness in the current climate, Syed says that when he looks at the millions of people who participated in the Women’s March, especially the 25,000 people marching in conservative Orange County, and the thousands who showed up at airports around the country when the travel ban was instituted, he “looked at the hopeful faces in public spaces, marching, singing, dancing — resisting every inch of the way, it gives you a whole lot of hope. We march on and keep on, keep up the fight. I remind myself that this is beautiful, and we shall overcome.”