CAIRO – A galaxy of religious leaders representing the Islamic, Jewish, Christian and Sikh communities have gathered to commemorate the 9/11 memory, denouncing the rise of Islamophobia and asking Americans to overcome the past decade’s fear and division, the Washington Post reported on Saturday, September 10.
“This gathering, Shoulder to Shoulder, is extremely important because, unfortunately, we have seen the rise of Islamophobia, which is more than what happened immediately after Sept. 11, because some people want to use Muslim as a political football,” Iman Mohamed Magid of the Islamic Society of North America, said.
Meeting at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Northwest Washington on Thursday, September 8, leaders of faith communities spoke out against religious bigotry.
During the event, nearly 26 faith groups joined Shoulder to Shoulder, an organization dedicated to building bridges among Christians, Muslims and Jews.
Shoulder-to-Shoulder was convened almost one year ago by the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) to speak out against the planned burning of the holy Qur’an in Gainesville, Fla., by the Terry Jones.
It also calls for ending anti-Muslim sentiment, apparent in recent polls by the Brookings Institution in collaboration with the Pew Research Center and others.
“What those exit polls revealed is that a significant percentage of American evangelicals believe that Islam is incompatible with our shared American values,” said Richard Cizik, president of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good.
Since 9/11, US Muslims, estimated between 6-8 million, have become sensitized to an erosion of their civil rights, with a prevailing belief that America was stigmatizing their faith.
Anti-Muslim frenzy has grown sharply in the US in recent months over plans to build a mosque near the site of the 9/11 attacks in New York, resulting in attacks on Muslims and their property.
Moreover, US Muslims have been sensing a growing hostility following a hearing presented by representative Peter King on what he described as “radicalization” of US Muslims.
Announcing a new era of interfaith cooperation, the US faith leaders agreed to cooperate to end discrimination against Muslims and promote mutual understanding.
“As our nation commemorates the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, we stand together as religious leaders from diverse traditions to urge our fellow Americans to recommit to the inspiring spirit of unity and cooperation that we as a people embraced in the weeks after the tragedy,” said the pledge read by Cizik.
The joint statement called for building bridges to reach the true sense of a united American nation.
“In the days after September 11, Americans transcended barriers of race, religion and political ideology in a powerful display of national unity amidst shared grief,” the statement posted on ISNA’s website said.
“The time has come to reclaim the sense of community and shared purpose that guided us through those trying days a decade ago.”
It also condemned the latest waves of anti-Muslim bigotry, urging all faith leaders to join hands against Muslim defamation.
“Fear-based politics and discrimination against Muslim Americans and those perceived to be Muslim disgrace the memories of those who perished on September 11, and desecrate the core values that make our nation great,” it added.
“We call on all houses of worship and individuals to join with us as we stand up for hope, unity, and healing.”
Sharing the gathering’s hope of unity, Rev. C. Welton Gaddy, president of Interfaith Alliance, called local communities to hold ecumenical services where Jewish, Christians and Muslims “read from the Torah, the gospels and the Koran in the same service.”
“The point is people who are Islamophobic have not understood that all three major traditions worship the same god, have the same values, and they are not values of division but values of coming together, mutual understand and mutual respect,” Gaddy said.
Rabbi Marc Schneier, president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding in New York, said there are signs of progress.
“We now see greater sensitivity since 9/11, and we have seen the emergence of the re-United States of America.”
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