It has been heart-rending for me to read about the growing rancor and bigotry about religion and race as we approach the mid-term elections. I am concerned as a peace-loving and community-minded citizen. I am also concerned as a personal matter. My great grandparents fled the pograms, and my parents felt free to become members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) and bring their children to Friends’ meeting. I both honor my ancestry and religious upbringing and can study and practice yoga without fear of societal condemnation. Current events remind us all too painfully that the importance of religious and spiritual freedom can never be taken for granted. It is a matter of constant attention to seek spiritual unity in religious diversity, to recognize the spirit in every one, no matter the form of practice they choose (including choosing no practice or faith at all).
Today, I received the following email from Joe Volk at the Friends Committee on National Legislation. I invite you to join me in taking action if you are so moved:
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.
Worship, Talk, Take a Stand
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.
- Ask 5 friends to sign the petition too.
- Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper supporting the Islamic Cultural Center.
- Find out if the American Muslim community in your area might welcome a public or private opportunity to get to know your own local church, meeting or community group;
- 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.
- Write your senators to ask them to speak out in support of the Islamic Cultural Center.
It’s always been an unfortunate tendency of humanity to have a need for an “other”. Once selected, we so easily project our own insecurity onto it.
One of the Friends with whom I worshiped back in Birmingham converted to Islam and it was very interesting hearing him talk about the particulars of the religion.
All I ever heard him mention were sensible, moral, ethical laws and codes of conduct.