Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Mosque Controversy Continues

As the politicians of both parties succumb one after the other to the hysteria surrounding plans for a mosque in lower Manhattan, we can see how fragile religious liberty really is in this country and why those of us who care about it need to make our voices heard. Recently, democratic congressman Steve Israel joined the nay-sayers by characterizing the efforts of Imam Feisal and his group to go forward with the project as "insensitive." But it is the opposition that is insensitive. Sensitivity would be demonstrated by a willingness to recognize, as President Bush said, the we are not at war with Islam, but with a small group of extremists who are as likely to persecute the Sufi Muslims who are building this peace center as they are Christians, Jews or any other people they don't agree with. Sensitivity would not demonize this effort at creating a venue for peaceful understanding because it happens to be Muslim-initiated, but would rather see this for what it is: an opportunity to demonstrate that we in the United States practice what we preach, religious liberty for all. Sensitivity would recognize that the whole world is watching to see if we really do embrace moderate Muslims with open arms or if we are against all Muslims, as the extremists claim. Finally, sensitivity would recognize, as New York's mayor and President Obama have, that freedom is either for all, or for none and that if we suspend that freedom for those we do not understand or for anyone, we are not the nation we claim to be. The people of lower Manhattan have voiced their support for this project. The mayor of New York is standing up for New Yorkers of every faith to worship how and where they choose. Clergy of every faith are standing with Imam Feisal because Jews and Christians, as well as Muslims and people of every faith understand that we are called to love the stranger, embrace the outcast and seek peace. To attack this mosque is to attack our constitution, our liberty and more importantly, our faith. Let's hope that Imam Feisal and his group are able to stand fast and move ahead- for all of our sakes.