Two organizations, Euphrates Institute (EI) and United Religions Initiative (URI), have stepped up to show support and solidarity for American Muslims now facing rising incidents of Islamophobia, vandalism, and other hate crimes. They join hundreds of religious and community leaders who have united against the Koran-burning pastor Terry Jones.
Pastor Terry Jones plans to rally on Good Friday, April 22, against American Muslims at the Islamic Center of America, a Dearborn, Michigan mosque and community center. The Islamic Center of America is over 70,000 sq. feet, the largest mosque in North America.
In an interview posted on the Detroit News website, Pastor Terry Jones said, “Our demonstration there is very peaceful, we have no intentions of doing anything provocative…”, despite the fact that rallying against “Sharia law” and “Jihad” in front of the largest Muslim place of worship in the country is—without debate—entirely provocative.
On Thursday, Dearborn Michigan mayor John O’ Reilly, Congressman John Dingell, and Chairman of the Interfaith Leadership Council, Bob Brutell, led a ceremony of area Christians, Muslims, and Jews united in speaking out against the planned anti-religious and bigoted staged action.
The Rev. George Shalhoub of St. Mary Antiochan Orthodox Church, Rev. Charles Williams from King Solomon Baptist Church, Archbishop Allen Vigneron of the Archdiocese of Detroit, Imam Mustapha Elturk of the Imams Council of Michigan and Imam Sayed Hassan Al-Qazwini of the Islamic Center all made impassioned pleas for universal denouncement and condemnation of Terry Jones.
Rev. Shalhoub said at the ceremony, “As people of faith, we believe that our community and our religious life is inclusive, not exclusive. Any radical fundamentalism which undermines the highest aspiration of our humanity is not with God.”
In a press release on Thursday, Janessa Gans Wilder, former CIA analyst and CEO of the Euphrates Institute, continued this thread of inclusion emphasizing the need for healing and, “to amplify voices of reason as we head into the tenth anniversary of the ruinous events of 9/11. It is a time to bring the American family together, not break it apart.”
“We must work together to ensure that people everywhere, here in the United States and beyond, are free to practice their religion without fear,” said URI Executive Director Rev. Charles P. Gibbs. “We must work together to uphold the dignity of every human being.”
Despite the unequivocal American tenet of religious freedom, 13 U.S. state legislatures have introduced anti-Sharia law legislation as meaningless right-wing political stunts, the boilerplate language having been authored by lawyer David Yerushalmi. Yerushalmi is a controversial and divisive figure known to have made racist and anti-democratic remarks, calling for Muslims to be deported.
Widely reported online, at a pro-Israel rally in June, Yerushalmi asked, “What interest does America have in a strong Israel? If your answer is democracy in a liberal or western sense, know you have sided with the Palestinians of Hamas.”
It is troubling to see Republican legislators, like Paul Curtman of Missouri’s anti-Sharia bill which passed on Wednesday, become tools of an extremist, anti-American agenda from people like David Yerushalmi or Pastor Terry Jones.
The act of blocking Sharia in a state legislature is like passing a law saying that Biblical commandments in Deuteronomy and the Epistle of St. James should not be recognized in a U.S. court—it is an act of bigotry that has no place in America. It is also embarrassing that this racism and bigotry is still going on in our nation in the 21st century.
America stands for an ideology of inclusion and pluralism, what unites us is beyond race, class or creed—it’s the common understanding that we are simply human beings before all other labels. This unifying motif is woven through the entire fabric of our nation’s founding principles. It has been—and still is—America’s finest export.
In this spirit, the Euphrates Institute (EI) will be hosting a two-day summit: Our World Beyond 9/11 at Principia College, Elsah, Ill. on Oct 27th and 28th, 2011. Euphrates Institute is a United Religions Initiative Cooperation Circle (URI-CC) located in the Midwest and strives to promote interfaith understanding throughout the region.
“The Euphrates summit is inviting thought-leaders, conflict transformation experts, policymakers and interfaith community representatives to present key challenges of the past ten years,” explained Rebecca Tobias, Global Trustee for the United Religions Initiative (URI), “the ‘Our World Beyond 9/11’ summit will showcase burgeoning trends of hope and examples of peace, wherein true solutions lie.”