“To Bigotry No Sanction,
to Persecution No Assistance”
A Call to Citizens, Elected Officials, Journalists and Religious Communities to End the Current Wave of Fear and Bigotry Against Islam
– Massachusetts Interfaith Leaders (September 7, 2010)
Massachusetts knows too well the painful and dangerous effects of religious bigotry, persecution, and intolerance. American Indians, so-called witches, Quakers, Baptists, Jews, Roman Catholics, and others have borne the brunt of fears that bear no connection to reality. Such a danger looms again. We must not succumb.
Standing on the Statehouse grounds at the statue of Mary Dyer – Quaker, heroine of religious freedom, and martyr to religious intolerance – we call upon citizens, elected officials, journalists, and religious communities to pause, take stock, search our collective heart and soul, and here and now to resolve to end the surge of hatred and fear against Islam and Muslim Americans.
Addressing the matter of religious liberty, President George Washington in 1790 wrote to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island, confirming that ours is “a Government which to bigotry gives no sanction, to persecution no assistance.”
Thomas Jefferson said of religious freedom that it was “among the most inestimable of our blessings;” (Virginia’s Statute for Religious Freedom).
Katherine Lee Bates called upon the Author of the Universe to confirm this nation’s soul “in self-control,” and our “liberty in law” (America The Beautiful).
The current anti-Islamic climate is an attack not only on Muslim Americans, but also on one of this nation’s most basic principles. There is no small irony in that we are being urged to sacrifice these principles in the name of “patriotism” and “national identity.”
If today’s controversy were focused solely on the proposed Islamic center and mosque in Manhattan, that would be distressing enough. It is not. There are some ten or twelve proposed Islamic centers and mosques across the nation, and all have met with vitriol and resistance.
As people of faith and principle we cannot remain silent in the midst of the fear-filled suspicion and vilification of the Islamic community that is sweeping the nation. Whether in the Jewish, Muslim, Christian or other traditions, we share a sacred calling: to welcome strangers rather than fear them; to seek to recognize the presence of the divine in all whom we meet, and to be instruments of love and reconciliation for all with whom we interact.
Thus, with deep compassion for the families of the victims of 9/11 and for the enduring pain of all Americans, and with urgency and deep concern for this nation and for its people, we the undersigned declare the following:
AN INTERFAITH PLEDGE
WE CONDEMN all terrorists and all terrorist acts, whether committed in the name of Islam, Judaism, Christianity, or any other religion or creed;
WE KNOW that the terrorists who committed the heinous crimes of 9/11 were extremists who called themselves Muslim; in no way did they represent the vast majority of Muslims in this country or in the world;
WE AFFIRM that Islam, present in America even before the official establishment of this nation, is an integral and vital part of the American interfaith mosaic, and that Muslims contribute great value to both our interfaith endeavors and our civil society;
WE ARE PAINED that enmity against Muslim Americans is disfiguring our national soul, is life-threatening to Muslims, and bears the potential of turning good-hearted people against their neighbors;
WE RESPECT the Constitutional and human rights of members of all religious groups to practice their faith, including the equal right to build places of worship and gather together unimpaired by the influence of favoritism, bigotry, or discrimination; and
WE CONDEMN –-both in general and in the particular context of attacks on the Park 51 Project—the cynical use of misinformation and fear-mongering by various politicians, commentators, and media outlets to stir up anti-Muslim prejudice for political or other ends;
WE APPLAUD all efforts to build meaningful, honest, and enduring inter-religious and inter-cultural relationships; and
WE DENOUNCE the use of innuendo, stereotype, or misinformation that promotes fear, distrust, or hatred of Muslims, Jews, Christians, or any other religious or ethnic group;
WE CALL upon this great nation whose soul is tempered by law, to reaffirm the deeply held values of diversity and pluralism as intrinsic to our national character and to stand firm upon the First Amendment and its beautiful, unequivocal guarantee of civil liberties and freedom of religion.
THEREFORE, we the undersigned pledge the following:
WE PLEDGE to confront instances of bigotry against any religious or ethnic group whenever and wherever we find them, and call upon all those who disparage entire groups on account of the acts of a few to look deeply within themselves, and to stop; and
WE PLEDGE to work actively to break down barriers amongst the various communities of belief in our city –and beyond –and to replace those barriers with mutual respect, understanding, and an outstretched hand.
Massachusetts Interfaith Leaders
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