Honoring Our Commitment to Religious Freedom

At last week’s White House iftar (the daily fast-breaking during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan), President Obama, speaking on Park51 for the first time, opined that “This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country, and will not be treated differently by their government, is essential to who we are.”

We cannot agree more. Religious freedom is one of the bedrock ideals on which the United States is built. It was the very reason for the country’s founding, and remains a critical principle in a society such as ours.

This commitment to religious freedom also demands that we recognize that “Muslim” and “American” are not mutually exclusive categories.

Yes, many Americans lost their lives on 9/11 – and Muslims were among those Americans. People of all faiths are welcome in this country. People of all faiths are and can become Americans.

We must be attentive to those who oppose the Cordoba House and express concern over the sensitivities of September 11th victims’ families. But we must not let that concern allow us to forget that Muslims were also American victims on that fateful day.  That Muslims want to help rebuild downtown Manhattan is a reminder to us all – that we have all suffered and we can all work together on healing.