It’s all about religious tolerance

Joe Volk of the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) just sent out an email message encouraging all Quakers to “state publicly that you stand with our brothers and sisters in the American Muslim community” in the days leading up to September 11.

I heard about this from my friend E, a Quaker and a yoga teacher, who writes on her blog: “It has been heart-rending for me to read about the growing rancor and bigotry about religion and race…. My great grandparents fled the pogroms, and my parents felt free to become members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)….”

We’re not quite at the level of pogroms yet, but Rev. Meredith Garmon, minister at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Gainesville, Florida, writes in a blog post today that anti-Muslim hate crimes are increasing; in addition, “Here in my home of Gainesville, Fla., a local fringe church known for its anti-Muslim and anti-LGBT rhetoric has been getting national media attention for their planned ‘Burn a Qu’ran Day’ on Sept. 11th.”

Whatever you may think of the proposed Islamic cultural center in downtown Manhattan, I know you’re not going to burn a copy of the Qu’ran, or pee on a mosque, or stab a Muslim taxi driver. Whichever side of the issue you’re on, I know you’re not going to spout increasingly inflammatory rhetoric in the days leading up to 9/11 (which this year are the final days of Ramadan). Nope, we’re all going to show the best of religious liberalism, and spend the next two weeks thinking peace and publicly supporting the principle of religious tolerance.

Below is the text of the FCNL email message.

At FCNL, we’ve been sick at heart and concerned at the hate speech, confusion, and misinformation about American Muslims that has spread across the country in the last month. Many of you have told us that you share our concern.

The controversy is not over yet. Between today and the September 11 anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center, we at FCNL expect another outpouring of bigotry and misplaced anger at the proposal to build an Islamic cultural center in downtown New York City.

In the first eleven days of September, please state publicly that you stand with our brothers and sisters in the American Muslim community. We support their proposal to exercise their religious freedom by building an Islamic Cultural Center in downtown Manhattan, where they have lived and worshiped for years.

Our country needs this cultural center and the public discussion that it is generating. The proposal for this Islamic cultural center can be transformed from an ugly controversy into perhaps the most important public opportunity in this decade to celebrate and exercise the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of religion.

Many of you are taking this opportunity. From New York to North Carolina and from Maryland to Illinois, we have heard about local community groups using the public focus on the cultural center to organize opportunities for Christians and Muslims to find out what they have in common. To counter the distrust and misinformation, more people need to state publicly that they support the freedom of American Muslims to worship and to gather together.

Please start by signing this petition supporting American Muslims and the proposal to exercise their religious freedom to build an Islamic cultural center in downtown Manhattan. Ask 5 friends to sign it as well. We’ll add the names of those who sign to the bottom of the petition to show the support that’s out there.

That’s the first step, but we encourage you to do more if you can. Here are some suggestions….

Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper supporting the Islamic Cultural Center….

— On Friday, September 10, many local American Muslim communities around our country organize public celebrations of Eid ul-Fitr — the end of the holy period of Ramadan. Find out if Muslims in your area might welcome the participation of people of other faiths. [Actually, I think it’s kind of late to do this unless you already have a strong relationship with your local Muslim community.]

Write your senators to ask them to speak out in support of the Islamic Cultural Center.

3 thoughts on “It’s all about religious tolerance

  1. kim

    Americans have gone crazy with fear and paranoia.
    Usually when a country goes with some extreme ideology, the people who pick up and emigrate to another country are those who oppose that idea, not its supporters. Like many of the Cubans in Florida are very anti-Castro: if they had liked him they would have stayed in Cuba. Wouldn’t that hint that the people who came here from Muslim countries are those who preferred our ways to theirs? Or is that just a crazy idea? Why would they have come here if they didn’t like America?

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