Off The Press

August 31, 2010

By Greg Farrar

Against the assault on freedom No. 1

Greg Farrar Press photographer

Why should this writer feel it important to share thoughts about the proposed mosque and community center project 3,000 miles away from Issaquah, in New York City near the site of the World Trade Center terrorist attack? Isn’t that a little bit outside our scope?

I don’t think so, and to name a few reasons, here’s why:

• An Eastlake High School girls’ basketball player wearing a headscarf in 2007.

• Chabad of the Central Cascades, located in the Issaquah Highlands.

• The Vedic Cultural Center on 228th Avenue Southeast in Sammamish.

• Issaquah’s sister city relationship with Chefchaouen, Morocco.

• The local Christian churches of many denominations, including Serbian Orthodox.

• A local Baha’i faith group having meetings in members’ homes.

• The Sammamish Muslims Association proposal for an Islamic Center of Sammamish and Issaquah near Pine Lake.

The point being, we are right in the middle of the debate and its outcome.

Many of us in this area have already reached a conclusion. Just attend an ethnic cultural fair at one of our elementary schools and anyone can see that the whole world is represented in our city. Software engineers living here have come from all over the world with their families. We’ve figured out the importance of accepting and respecting our differences.

If you haven’t reached that conclusion, here’s my opinion.

It’s sad to see the consternation going on in New York, the most multicultural city in the world. There are supporters and detractors even among family survivors of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attack.

It’s sad to see politicians and pundits taking stands for or against the plan that are so predictable based on their political party or ideology without a moment of intellectual examination.

It’s sad to see political attacks against the president just for the sake of party momentum going into fall elections, when Obama says during a Ramadan observance at the White House that Muslims have a constitutional right to build without government interference.

By the way, it’s sad to hear that 20 percent of Americans believe Obama is a Muslim.

Since that’s my opinion, here’s where I stand.

Where my wife and I live in Mountlake Terrace, we are two blocks from Masjid Umar Al-Farooq, a local mosque. It’s a pleasure to be their neighbor.

Also, two blocks away from us is a Sukyo Mahikari Center for Spiritual Development. We are not suffering any anxiety by their presence.

For more than 30 years, our neighbors across the street have been a black family. Frank helps me with my home improvement projects and I help him with his. He calls me a brother.

A while back, for about a decade, we had lesbian next-door neighbors. Their proximity did not change my wife’s affection toward me.

Currently, the two families living on either side of us speak Spanish as their first language. Between the three houses, mine is frankly the only eyesore.

I’m not a fancy intellect. If I can figure out that it’s important to live in support of people who are different, everyone else should be able to have figured it out before me.

I’m done talking about where I stand. Understand me, an act of terror is not the practice of a religion. It is a sick, evil act of hate and murder. But I’d like to finish with an inarguable fact.

The very first line of the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights, states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

It’s even more important than freedom of speech. It’s more important than freedom of the press. It’s more important that the right to petition government. It’s more important than the right to bear arms. Choosing to practice or not practice any religion one wants is freedom No. 1.

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