Written by Gregg Brekke
Responding to hearings called by Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) on "The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community's Response," an interfaith coalition, inclusive of National Council of Churches and United Church of Christ representatives, held a "Shoulder-to-Shoulder" press conference today in Washington D.C.
The Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders issued a statement in opposition to the congressional inquiries following today's House Committee on Homeland Security's hearing. They will also launch a national interfaith campaign to promote tolerance and work for an end to anti-Muslim bigotry.
Michael Neuroth, the UCC's policy advocate for international issues, was present at the conference along with over 20 interfaith leaders.
Critics of the hearings say the Obama administration has urged vigilance in investigating the broad sweep of terrorist activities, including domestic terrorism not related to religious affiliation. But King countered that the main threat to U.S. Security is Al Qaeda as his justification for focusing on the Islamic community's response to radicalization.
The Shoulder-to-Shoulder statement claims the rationale for the hearings "rests on an assertion that the American Muslim community has failed to support American law enforcement in its efforts against terrorism."
"All of our faith communities share a powerful prohibition against bearing false witness," the statement stresses. "To assert that Muslims as a broad group are not deeply devoted to America's safety and the peaceful interaction of its entire citizenry – that is false witness."
Senior national leaders speaking at the press conference included:
- Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, General Secretary, National Council of Churches
- Rev. Richard Cizik, President, The New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good
- Fr. James Massa, Executive Director of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
- Rabbi Marc Schneier, President, The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding
- Imam Mohamed Hagmagid Ali, President, Islamic Society of North America
- Mark J. Pelavin, Director, Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism and Associate Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
- Rabbi Jack Moline, Director of Public Policy, The Rabbinical Assembly and Board Member, Interfaith Alliance
Intersections International, an interfaith initiative of the Collegiate Church of New York led by former UCC communications director the Rev. Robert Chase, also issued a statement on the King hearings, calling them "an unfortunate and misguided expression of legitimate concerns about terrorism in this country and around the world."
"Congressman King's efforts should focus on extremism in America rather than American faith communities," the Intersections statement continued. "Freedom of religion and religious pluralism are hallmarks of democracy. As Americans, it is our right to practice our faith free from intimidation and fear."
In a similar move, but unrelated to the King hearings, a coalition of interfaith leaders in Arizona and New Mexico have published "Seven Resolutions against Prejudice, Hatred and Discrimination."
Initially planned as a response to the proposed burning of the Quran by a Florida pastor, this group is urging renewed efforts at dialog and understanding. Faith leaders will sign a statement affirming the Seven Resolutions at today's gathering of leaders at the Tempe (Ariz.) Islamic Center.