A plan to build an Islamic center on downtown New York City has brought out the worst in some of our elected officials here in the United States. TPM gives a good rundown of the patently bigoted and racist statements made by public officials in the United States, from Sarah Palin’s admonition that Muslims “refudiate” the mosque to Newt Gingrich’s ultimatum that, “There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia.”
Sadly, there are a trove of these sorts of examples. But even as we witness the depravities of racism and bigotry practiced by influential public officials in the United States, it is important to keep in mind that a number of public officials have put themselves on the line to defend the American ideal of religious pluralism and tolerance.
Here are five heroic acts in service of American pluralism.
1) Colin Powell on Meet the Press in October 2008 in which he responds to the smear and whisper campaign suggesting Obama is a Muslim. “So what if he was?”, says Powell.
2) FBI Director Robert Muller is frequently out front defending the American Muslim community that it is somehow a fifth column. Here is he in response to a question by Congressman Keith Ellison at the House Judiciary Committee on April 23, 2008.
“And every opportunity I have, I re-affirm the fact that 99.9 percent of Muslim-Americans or Sikh-Americans, Arab-Americans are every bit as patriotic as anybody else in this room, and that many of our cases are a result of the cooperation from the Muslim community in the United States.”
3) Pentagon Boots Franklin Graham from National Prayer Day Activities. Graham, a prominant christian evangelist has called Islam an evil religion. In May 2008, the Pentagon recinded an invitation to Graham to participate in a Prayer Day at the Pentagon. This is how they justified that decision:
“We’re an all-inclusive military,” [Pentagon Spokesperson] Collins said. “We honor all faiths. … Our message to our service and civilian work force is about the need for diversity and appreciation of all faiths.”
4) Manhattan Borough President Steve Stringer defends Islamic center because “we are Americans first.”
5) George W. Bush, immediately after the September 11 attacks. President Bush went to great lengths to differentiate Islam from the 9-11 terrorists. Bush was a controversial president for a host of reasons, but this statement in a September 21, 2001 speech to Congress, helped set the tone for how other elected officials described the role of Islam in the 9-11 attacks.
I also want to speak tonight directly to Muslims throughout the world. We respect your faith. It’s practiced freely by many millions of Americans and by millions more in countries that America counts as friends. Its teachings are good and peaceful, and those who commit evil in the name of Allah blaspheme the name of Allah.
Know of other examples? Send them to UNDispatch-at-gmail dot com