Cordoba House–A Sane Statement

Those who are terrorizing the Muslim (Islam) faith community as in Murphreesboro, Tennessee and in many other places in the US are creating the very Islamic anger that they claim to fear. Any religious or ethnic group which is threatened through public words or deeds is bound to be angry and defend itself.
President Obama has worked hard to create better relations with the Islamic world, this hysteria which has been usurped by the Republican right-wing, is traitorous. It drives people to be opposed to our nation. It is time to recognize that the Sarah Palins, Jan Brewers, Glenn Becks and all their ilk are enemies of the United States. They contribute to making us less secure and to ginning up the very Islamic terrorists (And “Christian” terrorists like McVey) that they claim to fear.

(There may also be considered, legitimate and loyal non-demagogic opposition to some current policies. On some issues, I include myself in this category.)

There is no “link” to an original column. This article was sent directly to all members of the Marin Interfaith Council, like myself, with permission to reproduce. The author is the Rev. Carol Hovis, Executive Director of MIC. MIC is an organization of communities of faith in our county and includes churches, synagogues, sanghas, and other communities of faith and individuals from Protestant and Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Wiccans, Bahai, Sufi, Vedanta and more. The Board of Directors of MIC is equally multi-faith. The Rev. Hovis is an ordained Presbyterian minister whose tireless effort has helped communities of faith cooperate in efforts in behalf of housing, homelessness, hunger, health care, and youth.

Religion, Politics and the Public Square

The national uproar regarding the Cordoba House, a mosque and Muslim community center in New York City is a critical moment in the United States for all religions, for US politics and for the preservation of civil rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution.

It is no mistake that the First Amendment is first.  It is the bedrock of our democracy.

Up to this point in time, there has been no governmental interference with the Cordoba House initiative; their First Amendment right to freedom of religion has not been violated.  This is good news for our republic.

However, there has been an explosion on the internet, picked up by the mainstream media, of propaganda about Imam Feisal Abdul Raul and those who have been planning the NYC mosque.  The popular press and internet have fanned the flames of bigotry and hate, based on half-truths and outright lies.

On the positive side, the First Amendment rights of free speech and a free press are intact.  On the negative side, I believe the discourse in our public square is broken.  In my 20 years as an ordained Presbyterian minister, and the past six years as Executive Director of the Marin Interfaith Council, I have observed the tendency of thoughtful people, secular and religious, liberal, moderate and conservative, to be lethargic regarding our right of free speech in our civic conversations.  This includes me.

As long as a majority of concerned citizens remain passive spectators while a small minority of fringe ideologues whip up fear-mongering rhetoric about Muslims or any other “group” of people, our democracy is impoverished, even threatened by our silence.

I find good people of faith and conscience are reticent to speak up about controversial issues, whether in houses of worship or councils of government, because of the common misconception that expressing passionate views grounded in a religious or ethical belief system somehow violates the separation of religion and state.

The founders of this nation knew the disposition of institutions, both religious and political, to gravitate toward tyranny, without the proper checks and balances imbedded in our Constitution.  Also, the founders knew the inclination of individuals to persecute the “other”, those who are different from the majority.  For more than 200 years, our government has enacted laws to protect the civil rights of minority groups, albeit belatedly and imperfectly.

The current frenzy reaffirms for me the fundamental importance of interfaith, interreligious, multicultural work for the well-being of our nation and world.  The Marin Interfaith Council (MIC) seeks to contribute constructively to the public dialogue and debate on a myriad of issues, including immigration reform, homelessness and housing, Israel and Palestine, Proposition 8 and most recently on August 23rd, the Marin Education Achievement Gap.

In 1776, Thomas Jefferson wrote:  John Locke says ‘neither Pagan nor Mahomedan [Muslim] nor Jew ought to be excluded from the civil rights of the Commonwealth because of his religion… It is refusing toleration to those of different opinion which has produced all the bustles and wars on account of religion.”

As we commemorate the March on Washington, August 28th, let us remember one religious leader who understood the power of freedom to transform politics and the public discourse.

Forty-seven years ago, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. proclaimed: We have come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now.

Now is the time to stand with Muslim Americans and all who know the virulence of prejudice and discrimination and say “No” to fear and “Yes” to the Dream of freedom for all.

The Rev. Carol Hovis
Executive Director
Marin Interfaith Council

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