NY Bishop Mark Sisk on Islamic Center

Received by email
August 24, 2010

Dear Sisters and Brothers in the Diocese of New York

I am writing to tell you that I wholeheartedly join other religious and civic leaders in calling on all parties involved in the dispute over the planned lower Manhattan Islamic community center and mosque to convert a situation that has sadly become ever more divisive into, as Archbishop Timothy Dolan recently stated, "an opportunity for a civil, rational, loving, respectful discussion."

The plan to build this center is, without doubt, an emotionally highly-charged issue. But as a nation with tolerance and religious freedom at its very foundation, we must not let our emotions lead us into the error of persecuting or condemning an entire religion for the sins of its most misguided adherents.

The worldwide Islamic community is no more inclined to violence that any other. Within it, however, a struggle is going on - between the majority who seek to follow a moderate, loving religion and the few who would transform it into an intolerant theocracy intent on persecuting anyone, Muslim or otherwise, with whom they disagree. We should all, as Christians, reach out in friendship and love to the peaceful Islamic majority and do all in our power to build and strengthen bridges between our faiths. We should also all remember that the violence and hateful behavior of the extremist are not confined to any one religion. Over the centuries we Christians have numbered more than a few among us who have perpetrated unspeakable atrocities in Christ's name.

I must admit that I also have a more personal connection with this issue. At the Episcopal Diocese of New York we know the leaders of this project, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and his wife Daisy Khan. We know that they are loving, gentle people, who epitomize Islamic moderation. We know that as Sufis, they are members of an Islamic sect that teaches a universal belief in man's relationship to God that is not dissimilar from mystic elements in certain strains of Judaism and Christianity. Feisal Abdul Rauf and Daisy Khan are, without question, people to whom Christians of good will should reach out with the hand of hospitality and friendship, as they reach out to us. I understand and support their desire to build an Islamic center, intended in part to promote understanding and tolerance among different religions.

For these reasons I applaud the positions taken by Governor Patterson, Mayor Bloomberg and others and look forward to furthering the efforts to resolve this issue. I am convinced, aided and guided by the One God who is creator of all, that people of goodwill can find a solution that will strengthen, rather than divide, the human condition,


The Right Reverend Mark S. Sisk

Comments (22)

Rose-colored glasses, anyone?

Thanks to Bishop Sisk for a piece of sanity. Cooperation between Christians and Muslims is absolutely cental to efforts toward establishing lasting justice and peace. The shameless bigotry and pandering on this non-issue is dangerous and an affront to the common good.

It appears the Bishop should be devoting a lot more time to understanding what the Sufi's really are about. In reality,

In reality, Sufis from al-Ghazali to the present day have taught the necessity of jihad warfare, and have participated in that warfare. And in January 2009, Iraqi representatives of the Naqshabandi Sufi order met with Khaled Mashaal of Hamas, praised his jihad, donated jewelry to him, and boasted of their own jihad attacks against Americans in Iraq.

But never mind all that. For those whose knowledge is lacking on the historical penchant of Sufi's to share the call of Jihad and display the same cruel violence toward the dhimmi and infidel, the Sufis are the peaceful 'hippies' of islam.

Ignorance is truly Bliss.

Anthony, Bishop Sisk says nothing about Sufis in general. He speaks about two people who are well known to him, and who are trusted by many, many clergy who are active in interfaith affairs. Your condescension is misplaced.

Jim, when the Bishop's opinion piece states 'We know that as Sufis, they are members of an Islamic sect that teaches a universal belief in man's relationship to God that is not dissimilar from mystic elements ' without also noting their active participation in every muslim conquest and subjugation of native peoples', he is being more than a little disingenuous. I will give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that, like most uninformed observers in the West, the steretypical image of the Sufi's is that of peaceful hippies. In addition, I would recommend that anyone interested investigate what Rauf has said in arabic for an arab/muslim audience. Something which has received no coverage whatsoever here.

Our record as Christians is no better than that of any other religion. Someone's got to take a chance and stop it. (There's probably a reason why I, an Episcopalian, prefer Quaker meeting when I'm on vacation.)For what it's worth, and I know in this day when we seem to really WANT to believe the worst about people in particular group and black and white thinking makes us feel powerful it won't mean much, the primary meaning of jihad is the warfare one wages within oneself. Still, I recognize this will fall on deaf ears. There is great power in keeping the heat turned up. And in believing that suppression of others will make us safe.

I see you did not print my reply to Jim. Not surprised. It can be upsetting to one's pre-conceived 'ideas' to become confused by the facts. Rauf is on the record as stating that the way to engage western Christians and Jews was t
“deal with them as one courts a pretty girl he wants to date; stop thinking like a
typical Muslim. Then you can engage.”

By this blog and what is coming out of most of the mainstream media, it appears to be working.

Anthony, we are all volunteers here with real jobs. We review the comments when we have a chance. Then we publish them or not. I just reviewed yours and published them. I don't find them especially threatening because I think most of our readers will see through what you are trying to do and ignore you.

Jim, you are free to believe whatever you are emotionally and intellectually able to believe. If the truth is too jarring to your pre-conceived opinions, so be it.

Lois, Historically, Jihad has always meant Hol y War. For 1400 years, Muslims always understood the meaning of Jihad as Islamic Holy War. Every Islamic scholar, Mullah, maulana, Imam, etc., of the whole world will agree with this meaning of Jihad. Technically, Jihad is war against non-Muslims (Jihad al-kuffar or Jihad against disbelievers; and Jihad al-munafiqeen or Jihad against hypocrites) only, since muslims are forbidden to fight other Muslims. Hundreds of books were written by Islamic scholars on Jihad and everybody unanimously used the word Jihad as the religious war called holy war . In the Islamic history, more than 80% of the texts are filled with Holy War (Jihad). The idea of Jihad as solely a personal, internal struggle against one's proclivities to do evil deeds is a very recent thesis designed for Western minds and intended to obscure the historical nature of Jihad as Holy War.

Please excuse these longish discourses. The absence of knowledge or partial knowledge among the general public on these subjects begs clarification.

Anthony, you definitely get points for being consistent in your condescension. These discourses are hardly to the point. You don't know the Raufs. Many, many people involved in interfaith work do, and they have come to trust them over years of working with them. I dont have any problem accepting their word over that of an internet autodidact eager to show off his knowledge.

Jim, my family were Iraqi jews who lived in Iraq for 1000 years before being forced to flee for their lives in 1946 with their clothes on their back and nothing else. Far from being an 'autodidact' I am old enough to have memories of that time and what my family and I have forgotten about Islam as a culture and a religio-politcal system, you and most Americans will never know. And consider yourselves lucky for that.

The point isn't about Rauf, we got sidetracked on his qualifications as a 'moderate'. The salient point is whether a mosque belongs at this site. Those whose anti-feelings derive from losing family and/or friends, or plain outrage at the event have legitimate feelings. Those, like myself, who bring a deeper understanding of the ritual significance in the muslim historical context of erecting a mosque at this site, our opposition stems from the knowledge that this will be seen as a triumphal victory and validation of the hijackers and their Jihadist attack all over the muslim world and a further confirmation of the weakness of America.

Islam had civilization that promoted tolerance and intellectual inquiry when Christianity was in a low point of civility. Jihad has a wide range of meaning from yours to a personal holiness quest. To assume your experience is the only knowledge of Islam does not quite fill out the whole story. I am sorry your family had to flee your homeland. My Jewish friends had to flee the Christians in Germany. I hope we can encourage the best in each other and not use the worst to demonize one another

Saying that we can't separate sufis from holy war is like saying we can't separate Cistercians from the crusades. Thought including religious thought occurs in the midst of historical ambiguity. Let's not pretend for a moment that this is about any risk posed to "us" by Islam. It is a fear based piece of propaganda driven by domestic politics. Supporting moderate Islam is a policy victory for the U.S. and the first and fourteenth amendments specifically guarantee that the federal, state, and local authorities should stay the hell out. If anything, Christians should be criticizing our elected officials for not being vigorous enough in their opposition to bigotry and promotion of religious liberty. It is time to move beyond the hyped up imqge of 911 used by the Bush administration to launch its wars of agression, torture policy, and domestic surveillance initiatives. The loss of

Thousands of lives was tragic and reasonable measures need to be taken to keep people safe. But the Bush policies which Obama has mitigated without fully halting were themselves a crime. We need to demand more from our government and we need to support what has been profoundly positive about this ademinstrations outreach to the Islamic world. At the local level we need to engage with Muslim neighbors and the local mosque.

I'm glad to live in a community with good, generous Muslim neighbors and proud of leaders like Bishop Sisk who stand up when bigots attack the liberties of these friends to score points at the polls. It's time for the big boys and girls in the Republican foreign policy establishment to call this stupid ploy out for what it is.

I don't know much about Islam. I do know more than I really ought about the Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church. I think a number of people would bristle mightily if, upon telling someone they were Episcopalian, the person immediately assumed they were a liberal. I suspect that's what it's like in the Muslim world, too. If there's one thing I do know about Islam, it's that it's not one monolithic thing.

I note that Bishop Sisk supports their right to build an Islamic center--he doesn't write that he supports their right to build an Islamic center where they plan to, right around the corner from Ground Zero.

Prudence, sensitivity and grace--the imam in question should bring these to bear on this one.

Given that the Imam and his group seems to actually be building something in lower Manhattan and something that can be used by the whole community (you won't need to be Muslim to use the planned facilities) I would say good. He got the local community to support it (29-1 vote with some abstentions by the local board) only to get blasted mostly by non New Yorkers.

People were victims in 9/11 including Muslims. Muslims died in the WTC, men and women who worked or lived in lower Manhattan (people do live in lower Manhattan and do have the right to a place to worship and meet even a building if they can afford it and get it past the zoning board).

LKT, actually when it comes to 'infidels' Sunni and shia islam are remarkably monolithic. In fact, indistinguishable. This is the problem in the West, many people like yourself and the good Bishop hold remarkably incorrect assumptions erroneous assumptions' about islam which have no basis in reality.

Emma, according to the best information available, the number of confirmed muslim deaths attributable to 9/11 is between 28 and 56. Out of almost 3000.

Between 28 and 56. That seems about right considering the general population. Is that not enough to have lost their lives? Should there have been more for the comment to be valid?

Is the US Pentagon site less "sacred ground" than the WTC site? Are you lot aware that Muslims worship in a chapel a mere few dozen feet from that sacred ground?

Do you know that Park51 was on the books to be planned and built for months, was published public knowledge and no one cared until it became the ideal right-wing-nutcase blabbering point for the upcoming election?

Did you know that there seem to be two muslin mosques that are much closer to the WTC site than the Park51 property? Why is no one closing them down?

Why is nothing else in the area not an affront to sacred ground? Not fast food joints. Not untold retail outlets. Not sidewalk souvenir venders hawking wares. Not even strip clubs. Why?

Strictly speaking the two other mosques aren't closer. However many Muslims work closer and some may well live closer. Is it insensitive to wear hijab near the former WTC or to be known to be doing one of the daily prayers near there? Would an Ahmadi mosque be ok or an Ismaili mosque?

Muslims make up about .5% of the US population so if the number killed reflected their representation in the population there should only be 15 or so killed. However New York City does have a higher proportion of Muslims. More importantly each of those killed whether Muslim or Christian or atheist or Jew or whatever was an individual who presumably left relatives and friends mourning them

I mention the confirmed number because ever since 9/11 the number has been greatly exaggerated by muslims. I leave it to others to form their own opinions for this deceit. It has been used again in the mosque controversy, as it has since 9/11, to portray the muslim community as victims.As in , 'okay the hijackers were muslims but, see, muslims were killed also.' As if the fact that muslims were killed lessens the significance that the attack was carried out by muslims.
My point is, 28-50 died. For their families surely a tragedy. But a very, very small percentage when measured against the 3000 non-muslims who persished,

the number has been greatly exaggerated by muslims

This seems to be the essence of your arguments, anthony. "Muslims---All of 'em---Always Lie." "Muslims---All of 'em---Always Bad." "Muslims---All of 'em---Always Out to GET Us!"

You see an undifferentiated mass of Evil-Doers.

I see the Image of God, in all their diversity. Capable of doing GOOD, as well as evil.

I see the two young men who helped *me* (female-bodied GenderQueer, FWIW) move last summer---hours and hours of heavy-lifting!---who did it for nothing more than helping a friend of a friend. They weren't "muslims" . . . they were Haithm and Abdul!

Your family history gives you a unique perspective, of course. So does mine. So does theirs. So do ALL of ours.

It's what you DO w/ your family background, that measures---if I may quote a certain Christian---the "content of our character".

JC Fisher

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