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communicators urged to 'shine the light'
on post-9/11 discrimination
Chicago, Sept. 13, 2007 – Two leading faith-based publishers – one Muslim, one Christian – urged that faith communities "shine the light" on a disturbing pattern of discrimination across America in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
"We live in a xenophobic country," said the Rev. John Buchanan, editor and publisher of The Christian Century magazine. "We thought we had [even] taken care of anti-Semitism and that has been popping up here and there. One of the things we must do is name it [xenophobia] and keep shining a light on it."
Buchanan, who is also pastor of Fourth Presbyterian Church here, was responding to a presentation from Imam Malik Mujahid, president of the largest Islamic publishing house in the U.S., who had offered some alarming statistics about what he called "the unreported domestic war on terror."
Since September 11, 2001, Mujahid said, 500,000 Muslims have been interviewed by the FBI. Mujahid estimated 24 percent of Muslim American households have had a visit from the FBI. He estimated 28,000 have been detained or deported. Mujahid said special prisons for Muslim prisoners have been established since 9/11 and "Halliburton has a government contract to build more."
Mujahid, who is imam to three mosques and chairman of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, said he constantly hears critics claim that Muslim leaders do not condemn terrorism. Muslim leaders have been doing that all along, he said, pointing to a unanimous resolution of the U.S. Senate praising Muslim leaders for speaking out. That resolution got virtually no media attention, he noted.
Both religious leaders shared their thoughts on "The Legacy of 9/11 on Media, Faith and Society." The interfaith dialogue, held on the sixth anniversary of the 2001 terrorism events, was hosted by the Communication Commission of the National Council of Churches USA (NCC) meeting near the national headquarters of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, one of the NCC's 35 member communions.
Mujahid had many examples of what he says Muslims call "Islamophobia" but he particularly pointed to the swearing in of Keith Ellison, the first Muslim American elected to the U.S. Congress. Last December Rep. Virgil Goode (R.-Va.) had made anti-Muslim remarks regarding Ellison's use of the Koran in the private ceremony in taking his oath of office.
"There was no statement from the Republican Party" objecting to Rep. Goode's remarks, he said. "There was no statement from President Bush." (An NCC/FaithfulAmerica.org group did visit Rep. Goode in his Washington office last January.
Buchanan acknowledged the NCC's role in speaking up on behalf of those who are being scapegoated in our country but said, "the evangelicals have just 'out-mediaed' us in the past few years." He urged moderate mainline churches to speak out more loudly on behalf of "our Muslim brothers and sisters" and protest Islamaphobia when it is seen.
"We must say no to the late D. James Kennedy's notion that this is a Christian nation and we must do all we can to elect Christians to office to keep it that way," Buchanan said. "We must say no to Franklin Graham's statements...[that disparage] Muslims."
Buchanan said, we must concentrate on the "inclusive and tolerant tradition" that is in all of our sacred texts. He read from Isaiah 19 as an example of "the inclusive view of God…that's worth knowing about and talking about."
"What are you going to do with information like that?" asked the Rev. Michael Livingston, NCC president, who was moderator of the discussion.
"The level of ignorance and lack of awareness in the religious community, this war, this is part of our legacy," Livingston told the church communicators. He challenged his audience to "move this legacy in a different direction."
NCC News contact: Dan Webster, 212.870.2252, NCCnews@ncccusa.org
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