Past and Present
Bridging the Divide: The Occupy Movement as a Site for Experiments in Religious Pluralism
In the afternoon of October 21, 2011, around 70 Muslims kneeled down in the middle of the Occupy Wall Street site in Zuccotti Park for the Jumu’ah, the Islamic Friday prayers. This event, which happened at the apex of the Occupy protests, was put together by the Council on American Islamic Relations. They deemed it was “time for the New York Muslim community to assume its place in the fight for political and economic equality in this country…”1 Just two weeks earlier, Jewish “Occupiers” had organized a Kol Nidre service at Occupy, which was attended by several hundred to a thousand Jews.2
These displays of support for the Occupy movement by groups of Muslims and Jews from the New York area were just some of many examples of religio-political activism happening at Occupy. Beyond the original Occupy Wall Street in New York, in other “occupied” cities like Boston, Oakland, Phoenix, Seattle and Washington D.C., the influence of religion and spirituality was apparent. From dedicated “sacred spaces”, “interfaith tents”, improvised altars, nativity scenes, protest chaplains and sukkah tents, to yoga sessions, daily meditation, and crystal healing, religion and spirituality had a prominent place at the major U.S. Occupy sites.
Expressions of liberal religio-political activism such as these can be hard to place in the typical narrative of the relationship between religion and politics in the U.S. Although the focus has been shifting slightly in recent years,3 the idea that mixing religion and political...
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