New York, NY, September 7, 2010 … Concerned with a disturbing rise in discrimination against Muslims trying to legally build or expand their houses of worship -- mosques-- across the United States, interfaith and religious leaders have formed a coalition to assist those Muslim communities confronting opposition.
The Interfaith Coalition on Mosques (ICOM), comprised of individuals and organizations from different faith traditions – Christian, Jewish and Muslim – will provide support and stand with Muslims when their rights are being violated.
"We believe the best way to uphold America's democratic values is to ensure that Muslims can exercise the same religious freedom enjoyed by everyone in America. They deserve nothing less than to have a place of worship like everyone else," ICOM said in its Statement of Purpose. "While we are extremely concerned about discrimination against mosque building in America, we will also recognize that local governments have legitimate concerns regarding zoning planning issues within the framework of current federal, state and local laws."
From Florida to California, ugly rhetoric has replaced civil dialogue at local government planning meetings and community debates over proposals by Muslims citizens to exercise the rights guaranteed to everyone in America. "The level of hostility, fear mongering and hate speech is unacceptable and un-American," the coalition stated.
Working under the sponsorship of the Anti-Defamation League, which initiated the concept, ICOM will carefully monitor incidents of mosque discrimination around the country, gather facts and analyze the information, and speak out when appropriate to help Muslim communities who are encountering prejudice. "We will not take political sides. We will not make decisions based on ideology," the coalition said in its statement.
Charter members of the group, which is still in formation, are:
· Ambassador Akbar Ahmed, Chair of Islamic Studies, American University
· Dr. Saud Anwar, founder and co-chair of American Muslim Peace Initiative (AMPI)
· Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove, Senior Rabbi, Park Avenue Synagogue
· Abraham H. Foxman, National Director, Anti-Defamation League
· Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, President of the Interfaith Alliance
· Rabbi Yitz Greenberg, founder of Center for Leadership and Learning (CLAL), former chairman, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
· Rev. Dr. Katharine Henderson, Executive Vice President, Auburn Theological Seminary
· Bishop Paul Peter Jesep, American Representative for the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church
· Dr. Richard Land, President, The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, Southern Baptist Convention
· Msgr. Guy A. Massie, Vicar for Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Affairs, Monsignor, Diocese of Brooklyn
· Dr. Eboo Patel, founder and director, Interfaith Youth Core; member of Advisory Council of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships
· Father Robert Robbins, Director, Commission for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, Archdiocese of New York
Rabbi Eric J. Greenberg, Director of Interfaith Affairs for ADL, will coordinate the coalition's operations. He will receive complaints about mosque discrimination from ICOM members, ADL's regional offices, the media, and other credible sources. ADL experts will investigate each complaint and produce a report that will be shared with ICOM members. The coalition, which will operate by consensus, will discuss appropriate action to be taken.
More information on ICOM is available at http://www.adl.org/icom/