ISNA Organizes Interfaith Meeting To Discuss Perceived Intolerance


US media is reporting on meeting held Tuesday and organized by the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) to discuss what was described as a increasing in anti-Muslim rhetoric and intolerance. According to one report:

As a pastor from a small church in the U.S. state of Florida plans to burn Korans on September 11, Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders stood side by side at the National Press Club in Washington Tuesday to show their solidarity against anti-Muslim acts of discrimination in the U.S. A group of religious leaders from Christian and Jewish faiths joined together with the Islamic Society of North America for an emergency meeting to discuss a recent increase in anti-Muslim rhetoric and intolerance. Baptist Pastor Gerald Durley spoke for the group. “As religious leaders in this great country, we have come together in our nation’s capital to denounce categorically the derision, misinformation and outright bigotry being directed against America’s Muslim community,” he said. The group said people around the world have seen non-Muslim Americans show fear and contempt toward their Muslim neighbors–emotions that have generated from a national debate about a planned Islamic Center near the site of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City. Catholic Cardinal Theadore McCarrick, Archbishop of Washington, said he wants the international community to understand that the U.S was built on the principle of valuing one another. “I have a great fear that the story of bigotry, the story of hatred, the story of animosity to others is going to be taken by some to be the story of the real America and it’s not. This is not our country and we have to make sure our country is known around the world as a place where liberty of religion, where respect for your neighbor, where love for your neighbor, where these things are the most prominent in our society,” he said….Rabbi Nancy Fuchs-Kreimer says the interfaith group strongly condemns the desecration of a sacred text…Islamic Society of North America President Ingrid Mattson says American Muslims must show the world that the U.S. is a place where all religions can live together in peace. “American Muslims have a unique ability to be this bridge and to show the Muslims who do not live in this kind of freedom that an open, pluralistic atmosphere where there are diverse religions together can really be good for everyone,” she said.

Retuers further reported on remarks by Dr. Mattson:

Dr. Ingrid Mattson, the Islamic Society of North America president who helped organize Tuesday’s statement by religious leaders, said ordinary U.S. Muslims were feeling increasingly worried and harassed as they went about their daily lives. “I have heard many Muslim-Americans say that they have never felt this anxious or this insecure in America since directly after September 11,” she said. She urged Muslims abroad to “take a step back” and not use the “loud voices of some Christian extremists” in the United States as a justification for action against American Jews and Christians. “They do not represent America, they do not represent Christianity or Judaism,” Mattson said. “These people who are here with us today represent the true values and views of the vast majority of American Jews and Christians and just American citizens.” The religious leaders did not take a stand regarding the planned cultural center and mosque near the Ground Zero site in downtown Manhattan.

For the full group statement, go here

Following the interfaith meeting, ISNA announced that it attended a meeting with US U.S. Attorney General General Eric Holder for a “select group of prominent faith leaders.” According to the ISNA announcement:

Following today’s emergency interfaith summit and press conference, organized by the Islamic Society of North America in Washington D.C., a select group of prominent faith leaders from the summit attended a meeting with the U.S. Attorney General General Eric Holder. The group discussed measures the Attorney General and the Department of Justice can put in place to combat the surging anti-Muslim rhetoric, messages of hate, and acts of violence and intimidation that have occurred against American Muslims and are perceived by the community to increase on 9/11. “Aside from the time period directly following 9/11, there has never been a more critical need for the Attorney General and the Department of Justice to issue a strong and clear statement that they will protect religious freedom and they will enforce hate crime laws in the U.S. and prosecute any person who commits a hate crime,” said ISNA Secretary General Safaa Zarzour.   In the last few weeks, the American Muslim community has experienced an explosion of anti-Muslim rhetoric, threats to their safety and freedom to worship, acts of violence, protests, and intimidation. These have extended beyond the contested New York City Community Center to include Tennessee, California, Florida, Wisconsin, and more. “Many community members are fearful to attend a mosque, to pray at night, and to worship in communal gatherings to observe Ramadan and Eid this year,” stated Zarzour. “The anticipation of increased hate crimes on 9/11 is scaring many Muslim Americans and prohibiting them from freely practicing their religion.” Many mosques have moved Eid celebrations to the weekend following Eid, to avoid any potential misunderstandings due to the high emotions surrounding Eid coinciding with 9/11 this year. Other communities have decided to spend the day in service to their community, rather than in celebration of Eid through parties and social gatherings. “America is a country built on freedom of religion and it is unfortunate that so many Americans are now afraid to enjoy that freedom and pray. The meeting with the Attorney General sends a message that intimidation, hate, and violence against any member of any religion is intolerable by the U.S. Government,” said Zarzour.

As documented in a Hudson Institute report, ISNA grew directly out of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood. The organization has a long history of fundamentalism, anti-semitism, and support for terrorism and during the recent Holy Land Foundation terrorism financing trial, ISNA was named as an unindicted co-conspirator as a result of what the government called “ISNA’s and NAIT’s intimate relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood, the Palestine Committee, and the defendants in this case.” Although it is true that recently ISNA has issued condemnations of terrorism which for the first time identify Hamas and Hezbollah by name, there is no indication that the organization has ever addressed or acknowledged its history of support for terrorism. Also, as the Hudson Institute report observes, almost all of the ISNA founders remain active in the organization and ISNA maintains close relations with all other components of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood.

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