Friday, 25 February 2011 00:00
(Editor’s note: This letter was sent to U.S. Congressman Peter King and to Anton Newspapers. Eighty people in the religious community on Long Island signed the letter; we are printing the names of those in the areas our newspapers cover.)
Dear Representative Peter King,
As religious leaders and people of faith across Long Island, we stand together to express our profound concern about the Congressional hearings you have proposed to investigate the Muslim-American community. We fear this effort will only further divide our community and undermine our nation’s highest ideals. We urge you to cancel these hearings.
Protecting our nation requires allegiance to the fundamental values that give life to our democracy. A commitment to pluralism and respect for diversity are strengths in the fight against terrorism. We agree that law enforcement must find practical solutions to stop terrorism, whether these threats come from religious or non-religious extremists. Muslim-Americans have consistently denounced terrorism and worked closely with law enforcement to prevent violence. Building and maintaining trust with the Muslim community is crucial to furthering this cooperation, and we fear your hearings will only sow greater distrust and division at a time when unity and moral courage are needed.
A more constructive approach to strengthening the bonds of trust that bolster our security and protect our values would be convening a dialogue among faith leaders, law enforcement and elected officials such as yourself. It is with a spirit of goodwill and sincere hope that we propose beginning such an initiative with you.
Let us remember the lessons of history. Entire communities should never be targeted for suspicion of disloyalty. During World War II, Japanese-Americans were deprived of their rights and forced into internment camps because of blanket distrust of their commitment to our country. The McCarthy hearings became a shameful national spectacle that falsely impugned the loyalty and destroyed the lives of many Americans. Catholics were once demonized as threats to democracy beholden to a foreign power. Jews and African-Americans have faced centuries of suspicion and prejudice. Today, Muslim-Americans in many communities face fierce opposition when they propose to build mosques and worship peacefully. A growing number of Muslims are victims of hate crimes. This bigotry and discrimination, rooted in fear and ignorance, diminishes us all and unfairly maligns Americans who teach our children, serve our country, live peacefully and believe in the American dream.
Last month, our nation was shocked by a savage shooting spree in Arizona. This brazen attack killed or injured fellow Americans, including your colleague in the House of Representatives, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. As we mourn together in the wake of this painful tragedy, leaders of both parties have called for an elevated civic dialogue that transcends fear-mongering and polarization. These hearings are unworthy of that noble goal.
• Rev. Gregory J. Cappuccino, Pastor, St. Jane Frances de Chantal, Wantagh
• Rabbi Joshua Lobel, Temple Chaverim, Plainview
• M. Athar Suhail, President, Masjid Darul Qur’an, The Muslim Center of Long Island
• Rabbi Michael A. White, Senior Rabbi, Temple Sinai of Roslyn, Roslyn Heights
• Habeeb U. Ahmed Chairman, Board of Trustees Islamic Center of Long Island, Westbury, Commissioner Human Rights Commission Nassau County
• Rabbi Michael S. Churgel, RJE, Temple Beth Elohim, Old Bethpage
• Sister Mary Beth Moore, SC, Sister of Charity, Wantagh
• Rabbi Irwin A. Zeplowitz, The Community Synagogue, Port Washington
• Richard Tibbets, Recording Secretary,
The Interfaith Alliance Long Island Chapter, Floral Park
• Rev. Angela Cesa, Albertson
• Rabbi Randy Sheinberg, Temple Tikvah, New Hyde Park
• Rathi Raja, Hindu Faith, Manhasset
• Margaret Melkonian, Pax Christi, LI Council Member, Director,
Long Island Alliance for Peaceful Alternatives, Garden City
• Seemi Ahmed, Co-Chair, Muslim Peace Coalition, Albertson
• Rev. Mark Lukens, O.C.C., Pastor, Bethany United Church of Christ Chair,
The Interfaith Alliance Long Island Chapter