Interfaith Alliance to Candidates: Respect All Americans Equally

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Washington, D.C. – The President of the Interfaith Alliance, Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, today released the following letter he authored to both Senator Barack Obama and Senator John McCain encouraging both candidates to treat all Americans, including Muslims, equally and to fully engage them and other religious minorities in the political process.

Rev. Dr. Gaddy’s Letter follows:
24 June 2008

TO: Presidential Campaigns of Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama
FROM: The Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy
President, Interfaith Alliance

Religion has carried a high profile in the 2008 campaign season so far, but not all faith groups are feeling welcomed into the political process. A recent New York Times article in which Muslim leaders complain of exclusion from the campaign process highlights the challenge: Selecting the leader of all Americans must involve the participation of all Americans. This year’s presidential candidates have an historic opportunity to make that happen.

There are 2.35 million Muslims in America, living in cities and suburbs and rural areas in every region of the country. The nation’s largest communities make their homes in big cities in New York and Michigan, but the country’s first mosque still stands in Cedar Rapids, Iowa (pop. 125,000). Though they fall across the spectrum demographically, America’s Muslims share one thing: marginalization because of a false association of their religion with violence and extremism.

John McCain and Barack Obama have the chance to help make 2008 the year that stops.

To the Obama campaign, we issue this challenge: The next time someone asks if you are Muslim, don’t just say no and recite your Christian bona fides. Ask them why it matters. We’ve seen already that some of your opponents will try to use your family religious history against you. Rise above that, and use the moment to teach someone why calling you a Muslim isn’t correct, but it certainly isn’t a slur.

To the McCain campaign, a slightly different but no less important challenge: Don’t ignore the Muslim community because you assume they’ll vote the other way. Every citizen should hear clear, strong messages from all political parties in order to make an educated decision in the voting booth.

Both campaigns bear responsibility for making sure that Muslim Americans are fully included in the political process. To be clear, we are not asking for politically orchestrated photo-ops in front of mosques (or any other houses of worship, for that matter). We want to see real engagement of the Muslim community on substantive issues affecting their lives.

If the electoral process is not truly open to all Muslims who are American citizens, religious freedom in this nation is in serious jeopardy for people of all religions and people of no religion. We call on Sen. Obama and Sen. McCain to lead the nation away from ugly stereotyping and toward a process of civic involvement for all America’s citizens that strengthens the nation’s commitment to freedom and justice for all.

Welton Gaddy
President, Interfaith Alliance