They Came for Muslims and Immigrants, Then They Came for Me

1 October, 2018

Stephen Rohde

Seventeen years ago, in the wake of 9/11, Rev George Regas convened a wide array of faith leaders and activists in Southern California to found Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace.  Since then, ICUJP has met on over 875 Fridays and has organized hundreds of events to advance its mission that RELIGIOUS COMMUNITIES MUST STOP BLESSING WAR AND VIOLENCE. 

As the dangerous, threatening and fateful US “War on Terror” began to emerge, I was reminded of the haunting words of Rev Martin Niemöller’s cautionary poem, warning the world during the atrocities of Nazism that when a repressive government moves against the most despised in society, if left unchecked, no one is safe and it will move against its own citizens. In October 2001, I published my own version of “Then They Came for Me,” reproduced here. 

Sadly, today, seventeen years later, we are confronting ominously comparable threats to democracy revealing the persistence of fear, hatred, racism and bigotry. 

That’s why ICUJP continues it work without interruption and that’s why everyone, everyday needs to resist and advance the cause of peace, justice and liberty for all.


Then They Came for Me

   First they came for the Muslims, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Muslim.

   Then they came to detain immigrants indefinitely solely upon the certification of the Attorney General, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t an immigrant.

   Then they came to eavesdrop on suspects consulting with their attorneys, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a suspect.

   Then they came to prosecute non-citizens before secret military commissions, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a non-citizen.

   Then they came to enter homes and offices for unannounced “sneak and peek” searches, and I didn’t speak up because I had nothing to hide.

  Then they came to reinstate Cointelpro and resume the infiltration and surveillance of domestic religious and political groups, and I didn’t speak up because I had stopped participating in any groups.

   Then they came for anyone who objected to government policy because it aided the terrorists and gave ammunition to America’s enemies, and I didn’t speak up because……I didn’t dare.

   Then they came for me…….  and by that time no one was left to speak up.

Stephen Rohde, a constitutional lawyer and President of the ACLU of Southern California, is indebted to the inspiration of Rev. Martin Niemöller (1937). If you would like to support the mission and work of ICUJP, please make a donation here.