As an Act of Love, Please Reconsider Islamic Center Plan
An open letter to Imam Muhammad Abdul Rauf:
I apologize for beginning this letter with a disclaimer.
I, too, find the words and threats of the Rev. Terry Jones in Gainesville, Fla., to be misguided and inexcusable. He does not represent the way of following Jesus Christ as I understand it. I hope my disclaimer may encourage you to continue reading this letter.
I write as a Christian who lives in America — a Christian who dearly wants to see Islam as a religion that respects people of all beliefs, a religion that denounces violence in the name of religion, especially violence that harms and kills the innocent.
As the leading voice on the matter of the proposed Islamic center near ground zero in New York City, I ask you to consider taking a very bold step. I ask you to make a statement something like the following:
“As the organizing cleric for the proposed Islamic center in lower Manhattan in New York City, I would fully expect the provisions of American law to be in our favor and allow us to build the center as proposed. I greatly respect and appreciate the protection provided by American law.
“However, because we are a group of Muslims who understand Islam to be a faith respecting the rights and feelings of others, we will withdraw our plan for a center in this location. At this critical juncture in time, building bridges with non-Muslims seems more critical to us than building a center at this location.”
To me, such a statement would do at least two very important things:
- It would distance you from the radical Islamists. You may be unaware, but your comments insisting on building the center because it could cause more attacks and bloodshed by the radicals seems to align you implicitly with these radicals.
Don’t you wish to distinguish yourself from such people who use Islam as a motivation for suicide bombings that kill women and children and other innocents? Making your own choice to cancel your building plans would clearly set you apart from this element.
- Making your own choice to cancel your building plans would show that you consider the feelings of well-meaning people ahead of the threats of those hateful, vengeful people. Instead of allowing such radicals to burn bridges in the name of Islam, you would be standing up for building bridges.
When you ask non-Muslims to allow the center to be built in such a sensitive location, and then back that request with the threats from radical Islamists, you ask us again and again to “turn the other cheek,” as Jesus says in Matthew 5:39.
What a statement you would make if you as a Muslim leader set the example of following the words of one you recognize as a prophet and you chose to “turn the other cheek” this time. Or, if “turn the other cheek” does not inspire you, please choose not to build the center as an act of “submission,” which I understand to be a central tenet of Islam and even one possible translation of the word “Islam.”
I have little doubt that our American law would side with your request to build an Islamic center as you plan. I am proud that our American law works in defense of minority opinions, not just by popular polling. I am glad our law is most often so welcoming, not harsh.
But I humbly request that you consider making a statement from the perspective of your concern for others, not your concern for yourself, your faith, and especially not for your concern for the vicious terrorists and their threats.
I was greatly heartened to read the words of Iraq’s top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, when he said the intent to burn copies of the Quran is the Rev. Mr. Jones’ “expression of hatred of Islam” but called on Muslims to restrain their reactions and not offend Christians in any way.
“This disgraceful act contradicts the very duties of religious and spiritual leadership to enhance the value of peaceful coexistence and safeguard the rights and mutual respect among religions,” al-Sistani said in a statement posted on his website Friday.
You, Imam Abdul Rauf, have a great opportunity to enhance the value of peaceful coexistence and demonstrate mutual respect among religions. I humbly request that in the name of Islam you take the bold stance of withdrawing your plans to build an Islamic center in this sensitive location in New York and instead build bridges of mutual respect.
Salaam alaykum! May peace be with you. May we all be blessed peacemakers!
The Rev. Grady Perryman is pastor of Brownson Memorial Presbyterian Church in Southern Pines.
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