"They came first for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for me and by that time no one was left to speak up." Pastor Martin Niemoller
Thus Keith Olbermann begins another powerful Special Comment. This YouTube video, as well as videos, excerpts, and links to transcripts of Mayor Bloomberg's speech and President Obama's Ramadan speech are below the fold. I've included a few additional links and my own comments following the videos and excerpts.
Mayor Bloomberg's speech on religious freedom and support for mosque & community center
"Whatever you may think of the proposed mosque and community center, lost in the heat of the debate has been a basic question: Should government attempt to deny private citizens the right to build a house of worship on private property based on their particular religion? That may happen in other countries, but we should never allow it to happen here.
"This nation was founded on the principle that the government must never choose between religions or favor one over another. The World Trade Center site will forever hold a special place in our city, in our hearts. But we would be untrue to the best part of ourselves and who we are as New Yorkers and Americans if we said no to a mosque in lower Manhattan.
"Let us not forget that Muslims were among those murdered on 9/11, and that our Muslim neighbors grieved with us as New Yorkers and as Americans. We would betray our values and play into our enemies’ hands if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else. In fact, to cave to popular sentiment would be to hand a victory to the terrorists, and we should not stand for that."
President Obama's Ramadan speech
These events are also an affirmation of who we are as Americans. Our Founders understood that the best way to honor the place of faith in the lives of our people was to protect their freedom to practice religion. In the Virginia Act of Establishing Religion Freedom, Thomas Jefferson wrote that "all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion." The First Amendment of our Constitution established the freedom of religion as the law of the land. And that right has been upheld ever since.
Indeed, over the course of our history, religion has flourished within our borders precisely because Americans have had the right to worship as they choose -– including the right to believe in no religion at all. And it is a testament to the wisdom of our Founders that America remains deeply religious -– a nation where the ability of peoples of different faiths to coexist peacefully and with mutual respect for one another stands in stark contrast to the religious conflict that persists elsewhere around the globe.
Now, that's not to say that religion is without controversy. Recently, attention has been focused on the construction of mosques in certain communities -– particularly New York. Now, we must all recognize and respect the sensitivities surrounding the development of Lower Manhattan. The 9/11 attacks were a deeply traumatic event for our country. And the pain and the experience of suffering by those who lost loved ones is just unimaginable. So I understand the emotions that this issue engenders. And Ground Zero is, indeed, hallowed ground.
But let me be clear. As a citizen, and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country. (Applause.) And that includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in Lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America. And our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country and that they will not be treated differently by their government is essential to who we are. The writ of the Founders must endure.
Keith Olbermann's special comment on the community center
"They came first for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for me and by that time no one was left to speak up."
Pastor Martin Niemoller's words are well known but their context is not well understood. Niemoller was not speaking abstractly. He witnessed persecution, he acquiesced to it, he ultimately fell victim to it. He had been a German World War 1 hero, then a conservative who welcomed the fall of German democracy and the rise of Hitler and had few qualms the beginning of the holocaust until he himself was arrested for supporting it insufficiently.
...Niemoller was not warning of the Holocaust. He was warning of the willingness of a seemingly rational society to condone the gradual stoking of enmity towards an ethnic or religious group warning of the building-up of a collective pool of national fear and hate, warning of the moment in which the need to purge, outstrips even the parameters of the original scape-goating, when new victims are needed because a country has begun to run on a horrible fuel of hatred — magnified, amplified, multiplied, by politicians and zealots, within government and without.
Niemoller was not warning of the holocaust. He was warning of the thousand steps before a holocaust became inevitable. If we are at just the first of those steps again — today, here — it is one step too close.
Danad Milbank offers an interesting & compelling historical perspective in Religious tolerance, then and now
America Has Disgraced Itself by Peter Beinart
Reality Check from the front page today: Report: With or without GOP's attacks, "mosque" a long shot
My own voice on this is small, so I wanted to bring together what I think are some of the best thoughts on the subject that I've seen. Personally, I feel that we can fight extremism only by standing up for our ideals, and further that extremism gains every time we sacrifice our ideals. I had a brief exchange on Twitter that ended when I pointed out that the Bush administration sought the imam behind the Par51 Community Center project to reach out to moderate Muslims in the Middle East. We should be embracing people who themselves oppose extremism.
Among several of my friends and several progressives, I read surprise that this is even an issue, that it's "stupid" and a "nontroversy" as Chris Hayes coined on the Rachel Maddow Show. But on this as so many issues, voices of reason standing up in defense of our nation's most bedrock values seem to be getting drowned out by demagogues and far too many extremists on the right who are becoming more and more entrenched in the conservative mainstream.
Muslims are a part of our country as much as Christians and Jews, Buddhists and atheists, Mormons and Scientologists, and faiths that don't make it into media perspectives. Muslims were victims on 9/11, and have died defending us in our nation's military forces, including in Afghanistan and Iraq. The outcry against the Park51 Community Center & house of worship does disservice to those sacrifices and commitments to our values. If we reject moderate Muslims, we will only be left with the extremists who want to destroy us. Restricting the ability of moderate Muslims to worship & be part of our communities in Tennessee, in California, and even in Lower Manhattan, pushes them away and makes our struggle against Islamic extremists in the Taliban and Al-Qaeda a misguided crusade against all Islam. Every time we sacrifice our values, we give the extremists another small victory, which can accumulate into larger victories. I hope and believe every small voice counts. What will you say with yours?
Update: This is an excellent example of past outreach & integration of Muslims into our communities vs the demagoguery taking place today. A Muslim's faith in America by Haris Tarin
During his extensive travels from coast to coast and many places in between, he established friendships he never imagined were possible with people of a different faith, culture and skin color. He marveled at the openness and welcoming nature of the American people and government. Little did he know then that in a matter of three decades, he and my mother would choose the U.S. as their adopted homeland, and that he would be buried in its soil.
As young children, we would ask him why he chose this country. He would calmly respond: "The acceptance of my faith that I received in my travels through this country, I would not be able to find anywhere else."
He would tell us about the people who respected his religious practice of praying five times a day and created spaces for him to pray in. He would fondly recall how warm and open people were.
The excerpt doesn't do the column full justice - please read the whole thing.
Update 2: A couple of examples outside of New York
Another Mosque Project Comes Under Fire -- In Kentucky via TPMMuckraker
Freedom Of Churches And Mosques Protected In...Arizona via TPMDC
Update 3: More of this please.
NYC mosque draws interfaith support in California via MercuryNews.com