"Religious leaders challenging anti-Muslim rhetoric, violence
By Robert Marus
Published: August 30, 2010
WASHINGTON (ABP) -- Against a background of mounting anti-Muslim rhetoric and violence, Baptist and other religious leaders spoke out Aug. 30 against Islamophobia and urged federal officials to take a more proactive role in safeguarding Muslims’ civil rights.
A group of Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders held a press conference at a Washington church denouncing the rhetoric and attacks – including a suspicous Aug. 28 fire at the construction site of a mosque that has stirred significant controversy in Murfreesboro, Tenn.; the Aug. 24 attempted murder of a Muslim taxi driver in New York; and a conservative Florida church’s plans to burn copies of the Quran on Sept. 11 as an anti-Islamic protest.
“We’re shifting from fear to fear-mongering, from misunderstanding to misinformation, from legitimate speech to hate speech to hate violence” said Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations, in the conference at Washington’s Western Presbyterian Church. The church was chosen as the setting for the briefing partially because its sanctuary hosts Friday prayer services for Muslim students at the adjacent George Washington University campus.
The anti-Muslim violence comes amid a raging national controversy over a planned Islamic community center a few blocks from the former site of the World Trade Center in New York. Polls show about two-thirds of Americans opposed to the center’s construction, viewing an Islamic institution near the site of terrorist attacks perpetrated by Islamic extremists inappropriate. The same polls also show significant minorities of Americans questioning whether the Constitution’s religious-freedom provisions apply to Muslims.
While many of the opponents of the Park51 community center project in New York claim they do not question the right of Muslims to build the center but rather question its appropriateness, more blatant anti-Muslim protests have surfaced around mosque construction projects in other parts of the country. In particular, many opponents of the Tennessee mosque have openly asserted their opposition to any sort of Islamic facility in their community.
Jeffrey Haggray, pastor of Washington’s First Baptist Church, called the upswing in anti-Muslim rhetoric “truly unacceptable” and said Christian and other religious leaders have a special responsibility to speak out against it.
“While we all celebrate freedom of speech in our nation, we would be engaging in denial if we did not acknowledge forthrightly that the acts of violence that are now surfacing against Muslims, mosques and other Islamic symbols are directly linked to the vitriolic and incendiary rhetoric and actions we have seen in recent weeks,” he said. “We are duty-bound to publicly condemn these actions both as Americans and as people of faith.”
Strong like a mountain,
Flowing like a river."
~~Tai Chi Chih
"All things share the same breath;
the beast, the tree, the man.
The Air shares its spirit with
all the life it supports."
"If there are no dogs in Heaven,
then when I die I want to go where they went."
"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress
can be judged by the way its animals are treated."