The Issue of Mosque Construction and Religious Freedom in America
Alexandria, VA (Aug. 17, 2010) – At a time when the civil and constitutional rights of Muslims are under attack throughout the United States, the Muslim American Society Freedom (masfreedom.org) affirms the statement made by President Obama affirming the right of the American Muslim community to establish houses of worship, and expand current facilities when required by our community needs. This right of religious freedom is guaranteed by the First Amendment of United States Constitution.
Yet, we remain deeply concerned that the question of freedom of religion for Muslims in America is not confined to the issue of the proposed project of the Cordoba Initiative (often referred as the “Ground Zero” Mosque) in lower Manhattan. Indeed, Muslim communities throughout the United States – in Connecticut, Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, Wisconsin, California and other states, face zoning challenges, regulatory opposition, and even intimidation and threats of violence when they announce plans to build houses or worship or enlarge mosques and Islamic centers that currently exist. Current research by American University reveals that opposition to building mosques and the vandalizing of mosques are on the rise in America.
There have been recent instances, for example, of peaceful Muslim worshipers who were confronted by hostile crowds upon leaving mosques after Friday prayers. One such anti-Muslim church community in Florida is even planning to publicly burn copies of the Holy Qur’an on September 11th, 2010.
MAS Freedom believes that the vast majority of people of faith in America are fair and just in their respect for Muslims and the religion of Islam, and that a spirit of mutual tolerance and respect defines the vast majority of these relationships. However, a disturbing trend of unwarranted opposition to Muslims, and even the open hatred of our faith, is emerging from some extreme political quarters in the nation. The burning of holy scriptures and intimidation and attacks on Muslims should not be tolerated by anyone, especially in a nation that has a history of religious tolerance.
Moreover, the continued attention to the September 11th, 2001 attacks must not be used as a pretext for the demonization of the entire American Muslim community. American Muslims did not engineer this crime, nor did we condone it. Indeed, the American Muslim community was also victimized by this terrorist attack, and hundreds of Muslims were among the dead and injured at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Muslims in America seek positive engagement with the broader American community. We are anxious to demonstrate to others the genuine tenets of our faith, and our commitment to work for social welfare and social justice not only for Muslims, but for all people in our great nation. But we will not accept second class citizenship, or the compromise of our legitimate freedoms and constitutional protections.
We appeal to all people of faith and conscience to affirm faith over fear, and religious freedom and justice for all.
Mahdi Bray, Executive Director of MAS Freedom, commented that “MAS Freedom has launched a national project calling for the protection of mosques and American religious Freedom. And especially during this sacred month of Ramadan, we are encouraging mosques and community centers throughout America to hold open houses that invite members of the community to meet their Muslim neighbors. Also, we are encouraging Muslims, and especially our youth, to make a conscious effort to engage in interfaith education and community projects that bring the true tenets and values of our faith into the public arena.”
Bray concluded that “We are called to be good neighbors, and we are committed to doing this, not only during the month of Ramadan, but always. The positive work of Muslims in America can, and will, dispel the unjust criticism and hostility directed by some people against us. We affirm our religious rights as guaranteed by the laws of our nation. To those who desire less for American Muslims we are clear; second class citizenship is not an option.”