In Support of All American Muslims
Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, General Secretary, National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA;
Rabbi Marc Schneier, Founder and President, Foundation for Ethnic Understanding;
Imam Mohamed Magid, President, Islamic Society of North America;
Submitted on behalf of Shoulder-to-Shoulder: Standing with American Muslims; Upholding American Values, a campaign of 27 national faith groups, denominations and interfaith organizations working to end anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States by strengthening the voice of freedom and peace. www.ShoulderToShoulderCampaign.org
“Freedom of religion is a hallmark of this country. It is time to decide whether or not we are going to live up to our values.” – Dr. Ingrid Mattson, immediate past President of the Islamic Society of North America
This quote reflects well the challenge we as a country face in light of the past week’s controversy surrounding advertisements for TLC’s reality TV show All American Muslim. The show highlights five American Muslim families experiencing life in ways which we as Americans hold dear: beginning a family, serving in law enforcement, and coaching high school football. At the same time, they are shown practicing diverse expressions of their Islamic faith.
As religious leaders, we are committed to standing shoulder-to-shoulder with American Muslims – and with any religious community – when their ability to practice their religion or to express themselves publicly without fear of reprisal is compromised. Public displays of religious diversity in America are a cause for celebration, not for controversy, because they testify to the strength of religious liberty in the United States.
Withdrawing advertising support from All American Muslim due to pressure from an organization espousing anti-Muslim motivation is far from neutral. These demands send a chilling message to American Muslims that both their religious and non-religious practices are un-American and should be shielded from public view. The success of these demands has revealed again the outsized power of a relatively small group whose fear-based messages are amplified socially, in media and, at times, by Members of Congress against American Muslims.
We stand by the principle that to attack any religion in the United States is to do violence to the religious freedom of all Americans. Efforts like that against All American Muslim perpetuate the serious anti- Muslim discrimination that has grown in recent years, and our religious communities cannot sit by idly while American Muslims’ freedoms are compromised, or their day-to-day activities played down or covered up.
We challenge those invested in this controversy in any outlet – politically, online, in media, or in business – to cease propounding an exclusionary narrative, presenting it as normative or expressive of American values. We challenge you never to pull your support from any religious community in the face of discriminatory ideologies.
We urge those companies which have withdrawn their advertising from the show to publicly apologize and reinstate their advertising.
As national faith leaders, we bear a sacred responsibility to honor America’s varied faith traditions and to promote a culture of mutual respect and the assurance of religious freedom for all. Our society will be strengthened by confronting this challenge to the continued inclusion of American Muslims in the United States. We celebrate the valuable contributions they have made to our society through their service, family, worship and vocation.