Too often in our nation's history, some people have allowed their concerns or fears to cloud their judgments concerning people of other faith traditions, ethnicities, languages or national origins.
We remember how Puritans in the Massachusetts Bay Colony hanged Mary Dyer and three other Quakers in the mid-1600s; how the Know-Nothings persecuted and reviled Catholics for decades; how American citizens of Japanese ancestry were imprisoned during World War II; and how Henry Ford published the anti-Semitic Protocols of the Elders of Zion long after that work had been exposed as a fraud.
While we fully support legitimate attempts to enhance the security of the United States, we are concerned that the hearing in Congress on the "radicalization of Islam" may be another example of unfairly stereotyping people of a particular faith. This stereotyping can have the effect of stigmatizing all Muslims, painting all followers of Islam as dangerous or anti-American.
Beyond that, such congressional attention may well further unfounded anti-Islamic violence of the kind we witnessed after the 9-11 attacks against our homeland.
We know and have worked with Muslims in this area and in other parts of the United States, and find them to be as concerned about the well-being of our communities as any members of other religions. Our hope is that these hearing will pass without further inflaming anti-Muslim sentiments in any part of our country, and that we will learn again the painful lessons that when we act on our unfounded fear of those who differ from us, we often act in ways that are, ultimately, harmful to the peace and security of our community.
The Rev. Mark Deaton, the Rev. Greg DeLoach, Sister Ellen Francis, Mrs. Faiza Hasnain, the Rev. Michael Kavanaugh, Rabbi Robert Klensin and Dr. Andy Reese
(The writers are area spiritual leaders who represent the Interfaith Fellowship of Augusta.)