L.A. faith leaders support Muslim center in New York
Standing near a poster that read, "An attack against one is an attack against all," about 30 representatives of various faiths gathered Friday outside a central Los Angeles mosque to announce their support for an Islamic center planned near ground zero in New York.
Speakers at the multi-faith event outside the Islamic Center of Southern California denounced opposition to the New York building as a reflection of anti-Muslim bigotry, and called it anti-American because it divides the country and is not respectful of the constitutional right to freedom of religion.
"It is wise, it is right, it is good for that community center to be built in that place," said Stephen Rohde, co-president of the Progressive Jewish Alliance, a social justice organization based in Los Angeles.
Another speaker, Pastor Lewis Logan of the nondenominational Ruach Christian Community Fellowship, observed that Muslim "first responders" were among those who died in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and criticized a reporter who asked why the Islamic center couldn't be built elsewhere in New York City.
"I think the question itself is problematic," Logan said. "I think the real question is, 'Why would you even ask the question?' "
Those assembled included representatives of the Catholic Church, various Jewish organizations, United Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Seventh-day Adventists, Quakers and a pastor from the First AME Church, among others. The Los Angeles-based Muslim Public Affairs Council released a statement in support of the Islamic center that was signed by 71 religious leaders in Southern California.
Dr. Maher Hathout, a physician who is a senior advisor to the Muslim Public Affairs Council, called the gathering a representation of "the real America," adding, "This is the America we are going to defend, and this is the America we are going to be."
-- Mitchell Landsberg