Religious Rights

In support of religious freedom for Muslims in America

At a time when the civil and constitutional rights of Muslims are under attack throughout the United States, I celebrate the statement made by President Obama on August 13th, which affirmed the right of the American Muslim community to establish houses of worship, and expand current facilities when required by our community needs.  This right of religious freedom is guaranteed by the First Amendment of United States Constitution. 


The incremental Islamization of America

According to polls, nearly seventy percent of Americans are against building a mosque two blocks from Ground Zero. They instinctively understand that it’s offensive to build a mosque near the ground where radical Islamists perpetrated the worst domestic attack in American history. The majority of Americans believe in freedom of religion, but they know this issue is not about that.

Rather than debating whether or not Muslims should be allowed to build a mosque at Ground Zero (they have a Constitutional right to do so), we should be questioning why they insist on building it in that exact location.  There is no significant Muslim population in lower Manhattan, much less one that requires a $100 million community center. Therefore, it stands to reason that the proposed center’s proximity to Ground Zero, where Muslims killed nearly 3,000 people, is the primary impetus for its construction.


The ‘Ground Zero’ mosque: An open letter to Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.)

Dear Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.),

After hearing your recent comments on a plethora of media outlets regarding the lack of “responsibility” in building a Mosque and Islamic cultural center (“the Cordoba House”) two blocks away from Ground Zero, I have grave concerns. While I appreciate that you fully recognize the Constitutional right, and more broadly the legal right, for the Cordoba House to be built in its Park 51 location, I feel that you are sorely misguided in your request that the proposed center be moved to a “more suitable” location for several reasons.


The Ground Zero mosque and the legitimate boundaries of religious freedom

A recent CNN poll shows that 68% of Americans oppose the construction of the mosque and Islamic center planned near Ground Zero in lower Manhattan.  Most Americans don’t know that the mosque’s proposed name is Cordoba House, nor do they realize that the first Cordoba Mosque was built by Muslims in Cordoba, Spain after they conquered the Spanish kingdom.  Many historians see the mosque there as a symbol of the conquest of Spain by the forces of Islam.


Opponents of mosque using fear to divide

Last Thursday evening hundreds of residents in my hometown of Murfreesboro, Tenn., attended the Rutherford County Commission meeting to express their outrage over a proposed Islamic center of worship in the community. This is just the latest in a string of incidents around the country threatening the constitutional rights of Americans just like you and I. A group of citizens recently blocked a proposed mosque in Brentwood, Tenn. There are a growing number of people who are opposed to a mosque planned near ground zero in Manhattan. The events of 9/11 and other actions taken by al Qaeda planted the seeds of dissent, intolerance, hatred and fear. Those seeds are growing. Al Qaeda's endgame is destroying our way of life, our American principles and values.


Faith-based groups should play by the same rules

Last week, a coalition of 58 religious, civil liberties, and education organizations--including the American Humanist Association, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the Baptist Joint Committee--sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder asking him to direct the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) to review and ultimately withdraw a 2007 legal memo that sets a dangerous precedent for religious liberty and civil rights.

The legal memo in question concerns the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). RFRA was enacted in 1993 in order to nullify a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that curtailed Free Exercise rights (Employment Div. v. Smith). RFRA aimed to restore free exercise protections by prohibiting the government from imposing a “substantial burden” on a person’s free exercise of religion unless they could demonstrate a compelling governmental interest, and in such a case that interest must be achieved by the least restrictive means.


It’s about what we can do, not what we can’t agree on

Being a state legislator is hard but rewarding work.   It’s about long car rides in the middle of night.  It’s about meeting constituents every day – some who love you and some who, well, don’t agree with you at all.  It’s about eating bad food every once in a while.   It’s about working with a small but dedicated staff on a tiny budget.   It’s about trying to be everything to everybody even when that seems impossible.  Most importantly, it’s about performing public service to the best of our abilities.

In the past few months, as we have been out on the road, we have been struck by the real effects of the economic downturn on our constituents.  Ordinary women and men are finding it tough to make ends meet.  Many have lost their jobs, their houses and their dignity. Finding affordable ways to access sexual and reproductive healthcare services in the midst of this crisis has, for many, proven unfruitful and has fallen by the wayside.


FBI should explain use of agent provocateurs

Last week, MPAC expressed its outrage over the alleged plan of four men to carry out attacks against Jewish houses of worship. MPAC also applauded the FBI for foiling the group's plot to bomb New York City synagogues and use surface-to-air missiles to attack U.S. military planes.

In recent news articles, including one by the Nation Magazine, "FBI Blows It: Supposed Terror Plot Against NY Synagogues Is Bogus" (published May 23, 2009), the writer states that there is another narrative on what actually transpired between the FBI informant and the group of four people that were eventually charged with plans to carry out the attacks.

The NYC Bomb Plot: A Teachable Moment for American Security

Last week’s foiled bomb plot in New York City has been widely reported and confirms that homegrown Islamist-inspired terrorism is a clear and present danger. With three of the four assailants converting to Islam in prison, no one can ignore the impact which Wahhabi Islam, the strain of Islam being promulgated in many prisons has upon the radicalization of Muslim inmates. Predictably, Islamist groups (like CAIR and MPAC) with the aid of some non-Muslim echo chambers continue to be intransigent in their blindness. This blindness is manifest in their refusal to accept the fact we in the Muslim community have an ideological cancer lying within the House of Islam which can only be treated by fellow Muslims willing to do the hard work of reform. Blaming others or trying to say that their Islam is not our Islam while bearing some truth deflects real responsibility.

Regardless of how some may try and dismiss the accused as “degenerates”, “drug addicts”, or “criminals”, the more important teachable moment here is that the opium of the minds of these inmates was pure and simply a supremacist form of Islam which depends upon the medieval Wahhabi-Islamist interpretations of our Islamic scripture and tradition. To deflect the public from this reality is to shirk our responsibility as Muslims and more importantly as Americans.

Supreme Court Gets It Right - Religious Displays OK

In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court today issued a landmark First Amendment ruling clearing the way for governments to accept permanent monuments of their choosing in public parks. The decision comes in the case of Pleasant Grove City v. Summum, a critical First Amendment case in which we represented the Utah city in a challenge to a display of the Ten Commandments in a city park.

This decision represents a resounding victory for government speech and gives government the right to speak for itself and the ability to communicate on behalf of its citizens. It also clears the way for government to express its views and its history through the selection of monuments – including religious monuments and displays.