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Park51 — a symbol of American values

September 1, 2010, 5:15 pm | Posted by Dan Nejfelt

FPL held a press teleconference today featuring national security experts and diverse faith leaders making a compelling argument in favor of the Park51 Islamic Center and mosque near Ground Zero: the project not only has the legal right to move forward, it should be encouraged to do so because it would promote national security and embody American values of pluralism, religious liberty and interfaith cooperation.

Speakers included national security experts Matthew Alexander, a former high-level military interrogator in Iraq, and Andrew Bacevich, a nationally recognized expert on the military and international relations, as well as powerful voices (and strong allies!) from the faith community – Simon Greer of Jewish Funds for Justice, Lisa Sharon Harper of New York Faith & Justice, and David Gushee of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good. (Full-length audio of the call is here.) Individually and as a group, they made a compelling case in support of the Park51 Islamic Center, and gave political opportunists who have used fear-mongering rhetoric to stoke opposition to the mosque the stinging rebuke they deserve. Quotes from each of the speakers are after the jump:

Matthew Alexander:

“Park51 would be a powerful symbol of U.S. tolerance and freedom that will stand in direct contradiction to al Qaeda’s narrative that Americans hate Muslims. As a symbol, its construction demonstrates that the U.S. is not at war with Islam and that Muslims are welcome in America. It communicates a message of moderation that stands in stark contrast to al Qaeda’s bankrupt ideology. Symbols like this matter. Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay and the policy of torture and abuse handed al Qaeda its number one recruiting tool. Those who think al Qaeda will not be able to spin this controversy to their advantage are disastrously mistaken.”

Lisa Sharon Harper:

“As a New Yorker, I feel this debate in a very personal way–the area where Park51 is being proposed is not on Ground Zero. It is in a quiet community that has had an active Muslim population for centuries. The Muslims in the community have loved their neighborhood. They have loved their neighbors. We cannot allow Al Qaeda to gut us of our soul. We need this community center and mosque. It is America’s opportunity to put the words of Jesus to work. It is our opportunity to love our neighbors back.”

David Gushee:

“We seem to be in a fight over what 9/11 is to mean in this country over the long term. We should remember that in the aftermath of 9/11, America came together in a show of unity and cooperation. Let’s hold our political leaders, and ourselves, accountable for returning to that spirit. 9/11 cannot be taken to mean a permanent state of fear, anger, and grief, nor the directing of all of that at our fellow Muslims.”

Simon Greer:

“As a minority community with a history of persecution and exclusion at the hands of the majority, how can we not appreciate the dangers of a society in which it is acceptable to persecute and exclude minority communities, in which the individual is always placed over the collective? Our safety and security and prosperity in this country are directly related to the success we have had, with others, at making the United States a more inclusive place, with more interconnected communities.”

Andrew Bacevich:

“Speaking as a Catholic – a religion subject to considerable discrimination – I cherish the fact that I can be a full citizen and also be committed to my faith tradition. I find it unacceptable and deeply un-American to deny adherents of other faith traditions the freedoms I have enjoyed. Whether intentionally or not, the contrived mosque controversy wrongly and wrong-headedly conveys the impression that the United States views Islam itself as a national security threat.”

Other quotes and more information here: http://faithinpubliclife.org/content/press/2010/09/faith_leaders_national_securit.html

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