While it is all well and good to encourage the commonalities that unite Americans of all faiths, it is equally important to inquire into the bona fides of organizations that only claim to promote tolerance. Philadelphia presents a sorry but enlightening example of how groups whose agendas directly challenge American values get a free pass from the interfaith establishment due largely to the firmly held belief that "diverse (and disquieting) viewpoints must be respected as long as they are Muslim.
A prime example of this is the Mayors Office of Faith-based Initiatives (MOFI), "the primary liaison between the Office of the Mayor and Philadelphias diverse communities of faith and their leaders. Despite being provided with evidence of the U.S. governments case against one of its partners, the terror-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the offices interim director, Reverend Malcolm Byrd, declared: "We will engage with CAIR. We dont have to endorse you to work with you. After reviewing the evidence, MOFI decided to maintain the relationship.
According to this twisted logic, MOFI ought to welcome the KKK, a group which misappropriates Christian symbols and beliefs, or local supporters of the Westboro Baptist Church, with their strident attacks on homosexuals and Jews. It does not, but it does welcome the Nation of Islam, whose leader Louis Farrakhan unabashedly declares Jews to be part of "the Synagogue of Satan.
A similar approach is exhibited by the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia (ICGP), "dedicated to interreligious dialogue, education, and community building. It seemed reasonable to assume that the organization would want to vet its members to some degree, to be sure they truly embrace tolerance and respect for diversity. The ICGPs executive director, Abby Stamelman Hocky, soon disabused us of that notion.
While teens that take part in an ICGP initiative called Walking the Walk are encouraged to ask "the tough questions, Hocky was disinclined to take seriously information collected from the websites of three of the Muslim groups participating in it. If we really knew the leaders of these groups, we were told, we would be convinced they were, in truth, moderates; repeated requests to facilitate meetings with these leaders were ignored.
By ignoring the ideologies held by Muslim groups, the ICGP and others afford cover for those whose beliefs would otherwise be abhorrent to them, like the Villanova-based Foundation for Islamic Education (FIE). FIE has described itself as a satellite campus of Al-Azhar University of Cairo, while its leaders and faculty have sanctioned suicide attacks against Israeli civilians, defended the execution of Muslims who convert out of their faith and threatened Copts for questioning the Quran.
FIE used to hold summer "jihad camp gatherings at its campus before 9/11 where one invited speaker justified suicide bombings. FIE has also hosted a radical cleric, banned from entering Canada, who has stated that "[moderate] Muslims are those who openly advocate lesbianism, those who are publicly declared homosexuals. (continue reading...)(...more)