Muslimah Writers Alliance Director Requests Federal Action Against Islamophobia
by Aishah Schwartz
United States President Barack Obama
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20500
Hon. Eric H. Holder
United States Attorney General
United States Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20530-0001
RE: Request for Federal Action in Support of Federal Law on Freedom of Religion
Dear President Obama and Attorney General Holder,
Mr. President, I heard you loud and clear when you supported the right of Park51 organizers to pursue their project in the downtown Manhattan area known as ‘Ground Zero’ - or hallowed ground - but I also heard the secondary message you spoke of regarding the wisdom of Park51 organizers in their choice of location for the project. Additionally, I wrote extensively in support of your comments http://pressroom.prlog.org/mwa-net.
Sadly, however, as a result of the Park51 controversy, a media and political frenzy fueling a whirlwind of Islamophobic and hate-filled rhetoric targeting Muslim community members and the Islamic faith, has engulfed the nation, provoking me to call upon both you and Attorney General Holder, to uphold and enforce federal law regarding freedom of religion and freedom of worship based on not only the U.S. Constitution, but also the Republican backed 2000 lesser-known law, U.S. Code Title 42, Chapter 21C, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA).
I trust, of course, that you are both well aware of the Park51 triggered backlash against Muslim community members, their projects and plans, as an alarming increase in reports from across the nation indicate a rise in local governing agencies attempting to excessively scrutinize said plans, by invoking alleged zoning ordinance stipulations that the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act was designed to shield against.
From coast-to-coast a series of protests have risen against those who seek to freely worship in Islamic mosques, including the states of California, Tennessee, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Kentucky, Florida, Connecticut, and throughout New York. More on backlash at http://realhumanrights.wordpress.com.
The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act states that, “No government shall impose or implement a land use regulation in a manner that imposes a substantial burden on the religious exercise of a person, including a religious assembly or institution,” unless it meets very strict conditions.
Nor may any government inflict a regulation that discriminates “on the basis of religion or religious denomination.” Thus, it is clearly designed to protect individuals and houses of worship from discriminatory and unduly burdensome zoning regulations, and protects the religious exercise of all Americans.
It is, therefore, the responsibility of the U.S. Federal Government and the Department of Justice to enforce this law.
Moreover, it is also the Department of Justice’s role to prosecute bias crimes against people of any religion, including the acts of vandalism, and arson that we continue to see increasing in America. The law applies to all Americans, as shown at http://www.justice.gov/crt/housing/housing_rluipa2.php.
The law protects the right of Muslims to establish mosques, even where such a building might be unwelcome, just like it applies to people of all faiths and beliefs; as supported by the decision of approval by the New York Planning Commission regarding Park51.
Whether it is in New York City or in any part of America, as such issues are now arising across the nation, the same law applies.
The condemnation of the Muslim community on the part of those seeking to blame its collective membership for the acts of a few, as related to September 11, must not be allowed to continue unabated. Now is the time Mr. President and Attorney General Holder, for the nation to hear from you on this issue.
The U.S. Constitution guarantees freedom of religion for all Americans - including Muslim Americans - and it is reinforced by The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act; both of which the public must be made acutely aware of for the safety of us all.
Of particular urgency is the need to protect the nation’s Muslim children who have recently returned to school and who are now at risk of becoming the newest victims of September 11.
Now is the time to take this message to the public; your voices and actions are needed to bring about the wind of change sufficient to put out the Islamophobic wildfire threatening our nation.
Can the American public, including the Muslim American community, count on your support? I hope so.
Online Petition to President Obama and Attorney General Eric H. Holder
Park51: Law Passed Ten Years Ago Trumps Religious Freedom Debate