Cooking Up a Campaign

It is astounding what can happen in one week.

Last weekend, my friend Matt stopped by and started to vent his frustration and anger over the “Ground Zero Mosque” controversy and the wave of anti-Muslim violence sweeping the country.  I had been paralyzed over the issue for weeks, but hearing him began to thaw my frozen state: I wasn’t alone in my bewilderment and sadness.

Matt and I began to reach out to classmates and friends across the country: many of us felt that our voices were not represented in mainstream media.  As young people who grew up with radical diversity, we wanted to condemn violence against Muslims, or any group, as anti-American.  But we also noticed that the mainstream media presented the issue in polarizing terms, each side demonizing the other.  Even progressives are calling their opponents racists or bigots.  In our view, the primary force behind Islamophobia is not hatred or bigotry but fear — a deep-seated fear in an economically and politically unstable world, fueled by those politicians and interest groups that can most profit from it.  (See Nicholas Kristof’s brilliant NYT Op-Ed for more on this point).

We decided that by working together we could help transform the fear in our culture into creative action.  So we’re cooking up a Campaign for Common Ground, a truly grassroots movement that urges young people everywhere to stand up against violence in their communities and claim common ground through compassionate dialogue.  With dozens of volunteers spread across the country, including a core of Yale students, we’re working at lightening speed to go live before the 9/11 anniversary.

In one week, we’ve written the Charter for Common Ground, filmed a video series, compiled a dialogue packet, drafted letters and press releases, mobilized our core group of volunteers on a massive outreach effort, and we’re putting the finishing touches on our website as we speak:

Want to join the efforts before we go live?  Email us: or

Update 9/7 at 5am:

The Yale Daily News got wind of our video shoot last night and published the first article about our campaign: