Abdul Khadir Muhammad cannot be allowed to have the last word. Not in our city. Not on the grounds of our seat of government. Not in the shadow of Freedom Plaza, named in honor of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Muhammad may speak for the Nation of Islam. He does not speak for the District of Columbia. He is free to seek to divide, to sow anger, fear and hate. We are free to stand together as a people, bridging racial and religious lines; free to hold accountable those who would unglue our city.
I’m not going to dwell upon the ugliness spewed by Muhammad on Thursday outside the city government’s headquarters with Joshua Lopez, Democratic Mayor Muriel E. Bowser’s long-time friend and political ally, standing at his side. There is no good reason to rebroadcast those offensive attacks based on religion.
There is, however, good reason, and a moral obligation, for city and civic leaders to take actions that demonstrate that the District of Columbia is a place that seeks to bring people together; that we are a city that builds, not destroys, relationships; that we protect and defend the religious and nonreligious; and that our voices are strong, loud and unwavering when it comes to taking on bigotry in any form.
I don’t have a seat in the Wilson Building, or the ear of Bowser and the D.C. Council. My only means of expression is this keyboard.
But if I could get the attention of city leaders, I would urge that they be the ones to have the last word; that they, along with civic and religious leaders, organize in a display of interfaith unity, a return of citizens to the scene of Muhammad’s defacement.
Let him witness the response to his ugliness: people of the District of Columbia standing together, standing strong and shouting “no” to intolerance, bigotry and hate. Not in our town. Not now. Not ever.
Muhammad cannot go unanswered.