We must guard the rights of all citizens
I was disheartened to read David Epps’s opinion piece in last weekend’s issue of The Citizen. It is bad enough that Fox News pundits and self-serving right wing politicians are drumming up Islamophobia in this country. It is more than sad when our religious leaders join in that noise.
Fortunately, many religious leaders take the opposite view to David Epps regarding the building of a mosque and community center near Ground Zero in New York City. As we can read in the Aug. 18 edition of Time Magazine, seven of eight prominent diverse religious voices in the U.S. interviewed on this subject were committed to religious freedom.
In the words of Heidi Hasdell, president of the Hartford Seminary, “One serves one’s faith by living up to the ideals of that faith. The ideals of Christianity, like the ideals of Islam and Judaism, are peaceful. They are ideals of constructing peaceful and productive relationships with neighbors. The responsibility is to live up to the ideals of one’s religion and not sink to the lowest fears.”
Harold Attridge, dean of Yale Divinity School: “We must recognize that it was not the whole Muslim world that crashed into the Twin Towers on Sept. 11. It was a small fanatical group within Islam. We need to stop demonizing the whole of the Islamic world because of the actions of Islamic radicals.”
Osama bin Ladin does not represent all of Islam any more than the Rev. Terry Jones of Gainesville, Fla., is a spokesman for all of Christendom. Let us hope that we will not be judged abroad by one fanatic and his small flock deciding it was their godly duty to burn the Koran.
There is a lot of ugly noise these days, and the fanatics are usually the loudest. We need to tune our ears, open our eyes and hearts, educate our minds, learn to discriminate between fact and propaganda. So much information is available to us, if we will only do our homework.
On the issue of the New York city mosque, we might want to read about the sponsoring Cordoba Institute and its commitment to peaceful worship and harmonious interfaith relationships. We might want to review a lesson from the 1940s, when fear and paranoia caused this nation to imprison over 110,000 Japanese Americans (over 62 percent being citizens of this nation), stripping them of civil rights and property. (Ironically, all U.S. spies convicted during World War II were Caucasian.) An official apology was issued by our government in 1988. We learn slowly. And how easily we forget.
I agree with David Epps on one point: We can not — and should not — forget the terrible tragedy of 9/11. There are too many lessons to be learned from that terrible tragedy.
Another point that seems to get lost in this controversy: Whether or not we call ourselves Christians, we have a responsibility to support our nation’s constitution and guard the rights of fellow citizens. The United States Constitution promises freedom of religion. If we go back on that promise, we will indeed be lost.
Peachtree City, Ga.