Interfaith Statement for One America
A Call to Action for Deeper Understanding & Mutual Respect
As religious leaders representing people of many faiths in the San Francisco Bay Area, we are deeply troubled by the current wave of bigotry and hate directed at Islam and Muslims in the United States.
We recognize that there is a wide range of strongly held views about the location selected for the Islamic Center in New York near Ground Zero and that disagreement with the decision is not tantamount to attacking a religious group. At the same time, there is a growing pattern of anti-mosque protests and other actions directed at American Muslims in many parts of the country that aim to demonize Islam in the name of protecting America from Muslim radicals and extremists.
We condemn these attempts to vilify an entire religious community and affirm that such bigotry has no place in a nation committed to religious liberty for people of all faiths and none. Fear mongering, scapegoating, and intimidating a religious group does not protect our nation against the real threats that it faces, but rather threatens our pluralistic democracy that is a beacon to those who seek freedom from oppression. As a nation of immigrants, we continue to see our diversity as one of the great strengths of our country.
Well-aware of the long and bloody history of religious conflict in Europe, the framers of the U.S. Constitution were determined to found a nation committed to religious freedom. Thanks to their vision and commitment, religious liberty in America is protected as a precious, fundamental and inalienable right for all people. This right is guaranteed by the first 16 words of the First Amendment to the Constitution:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.
From the beginning of our history, we have struggled as a nation to live up to this founding ideal. The current outbreak of fear and prejudice directed at American Muslims is reminiscent of earlier attacks on Roman Catholics, Jews, Mormons and other immigrant communities in America. . Anti-Catholic rallies of the 19th century, for example, warned of "Romanism" taking over America and condemned the Catholic Church as antithetical to American freedom.
Today, we are called once again to speak out against a rising tide of prejudice that threatens the religious freedom of American Muslims and thus undermines religious freedom for us all. Religious liberty is a universal right joined to a universal responsibility to protect that right - not just for ourselves, but for all others. We celebrate that in America we may practice our own faiths in diverse ways that deepen our religious commitment, bridge many of the chasms that divide us, and build doors in the walls that often separate us. We are dedicated to creating a community of mutual respect and common effort for the good of society. This is a salute to America’s legacy and future.
At this difficult time, we ask people of all faiths to take concrete steps to reach out to Muslims and members of other faiths - to host events and joint projects that will build relationships and promote mutual understanding.
We ask all Americans of goodwill to join us in countering this current wave of bigotry and hate by coming together to create our own wave of deeper understanding, mutual respect and common action for the good of all. In this spirit, we commit ourselves to speak and act according to the vision of religious liberty set forth in our Constitution, and urge our fellow citizens to do the same.
Maha Elgenaidi, Islamic Networks Group (ING)
Rabbi Doug Kahn, Jewish Community Relations Council of San Francisco, Peninsula, Marin, Sonoma, Alameda and Contra Costa Counties.
Rev. Brian Stein-Webber, Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County
Rabbi Melanie Aron, Congregation Shir Hadash
Imam Aladdin El-Bakri, West Valley Muslim Association
Rev. Gerald Sakamoto, San Jose Buddhist Church Betsuin
Rev. Andrew Kille, Interfaith Space
Imam Tahir Anwar
Zahra Billoo, Council on American Islamic Relations – San Francisco
Rev. Canon Charles P. Gibbs, United Religions Initiative