This piece, which was published in the Idaho Statesman on September 11, 2010, was co-written with my friend Dr. Said Ahmed Zaid, of the Islamic Center of Idaho
In the immediate aftermath of September 11, 2001, Americans, for the most part, drew together with a sense of common purpose. We realized that the aim of the terrorists who perpetrated this evil was to use the ultimate weapon—fear—to divide, and thereby weaken, our nation, and we denied them that victory. Accounts of this brutal attack duly noted that Jews and Muslims, Christians and Buddhists, and Hindus and non-believers were all among the victims, and people of all faiths heroically guided and assisted one another amidst the rubble. To his great credit, President Bush adamantly refused to cast aspersions on
Alas, nearly a decade later, an ill wind of anger and intolerance threatens to unravel
Our founders came to the new world in search of religious liberty, and established this nation on a foundation of hope. In their wisdom, they enshrined freedom of religion in the Bill of Rights that defines the mission of
At the root of our current national unrest lies a great deal of fear and insecurity. We live, in many ways, in troubled times. But let us take note: rage and bitterness cannot assuage our fears by scapegoating an entire group that is part and parcel of our national fabric. The only way to move past them is to acknowledge and address them, honestly and openly, and in so doing, cultivate fear’s opposite: courage and faith. We desperately need real faith, not the narrow-minded triumphalism that would deny to other religious communities the rights and privileges we claim for our own, but the generous spirit at the heart of every great religious community which teaches that we are all equally children of the Merciful One.
And so, standing together as Muslim and Jew, we say plainly and unambiguously: build the mosque. And build synagogues and churches and ashrams and temples and meditation halls and humanist gathering places. Build them all, houses of worship of every faith and creed. And then recognize that it is only after they are built that the real work begins—the sacred labor of inviting one another into our respective homes and sharing our traditions. As we build sanctuaries, let us also build bridges, listening to and learning from one another.
The great Sufi poet Rumi wrote: “Why do you stay in prison when the door is so wide open? Move outside the tangle of fear-thinking.” May the citizens of