Miami-Dade County

Miami religious leaders condemn anti-Muslim rhetoric

The Rev. Patrick H. O'Neill, a Catholic priest, embraces Muslim Imam Khalid A. Salahuddin during an interfaith clergy dialogue at Friends Meeting House in South Miami during an MCCJ meeting on Thursday, December 10, 2015
The Rev. Patrick H. O'Neill, a Catholic priest, embraces Muslim Imam Khalid A. Salahuddin during an interfaith clergy dialogue at Friends Meeting House in South Miami during an MCCJ meeting on Thursday, December 10, 2015 adiaz@miamiherald.com

Taking a stance against religious intolerance, Miami-Dade County spiritual and religious leaders on Thursday condemned Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric, saying it has no place in the political debate.

This is not a problem of Muslims. This is a problem of hatred in this country.

Rabbi Frederick Klein

“This country was founded on religious freedom, religious dissidents of various countries coming here,” said Rabbi Frederick Klein, executive vice president of the Rabbinical Association of Greater Miami Jewish Federation. “We are all Americans, we are all people of faith. This is not a problem of Muslims. This is a problem of hatred in this country, and we people of faith need to come together in a united statement that we cannot tolerate this kind of discourse.”

Klein is among dozens of religious and spiritual leaders who have signed a proclamation from the Miami branch of the National Conference of Christians and Jews (MCCJ), Miami Clergy Dialogue.

The proclamation comes amid national outcry over Trump’s call earlier this week for a “total and complete” ban on Muslims entering the United States “until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”

While the comment was immediately condemned by many, including former Vice President Dick Cheney, it has found support in some quarters. Among Trump’s supporters: evangelist Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham and CEO of Samaritan’s Purse, an international Christian relief organization.

On Wednesday, Graham wrote on Facebook: “For some time I have been saying that Muslim immigration into the United States should be stopped until we can properly vet them or until the war with Islam is over.”

By Thursday afternoon, Graham’s post had more than 60,000 shares and 89,000 likes.

Still, Eduardo Diaz, co-chair of the Miami Clergy Dialogue, noted the worldwide backlash to Trump’s commentary. French and British leaders have condemned Trump's proposed ban, as well as other European leaders. British Prime Minister David Cameron, who doesn't typically comment on U.S. presidential candidates, called Trump's remarks “divisive, unhelpful and quite simply wrong.” Meanwhile in Scotland, where the billionaire is developing a golf course, citizens have submitted a petition to Parliament calling for Trump to be banned from the United Kingdom.

“You have Dick Cheney speaking against him,” Diaz said about the former vice president, who said Trump’s Muslim immigration restriction plan “goes against everything we stand for.”

“I think he’s really killed his candidacy,” said Diaz, a Quaker.

Not here, not now, not us.

Presbyterian minister, Rev. Diane Shoaf

In taking a stand against Trump’s divisive comments, the religious and spiritual leaders said they also were saying “No” to any sort of religious litmus test for entry into the United States, as some have proposed.

“Not here, not now, not us,” said the Rev. Diane Shoaf, Presbyterian minister and co-chair of the Miami Clergy Dialogue, reading the group’s proclamation. “We say no to the current political discourse that would have citizens and residents of the United States of America acquiesce to a policy of discrimination based upon one’s religious affiliation.”

For Muslims in South Florida, Trump’s statement is the latest in a series of events that have deepened fears about a backlash against them. Last month there were Islamic State-led terrorist attacks in Paris, and last week, a mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, by a Muslim husband and wife. President Barack Obama termed the mass shooting, which killed 14 people, “an act of terrorism.”

“People who call themselves Muslims and they behave like this do not represent” the Islamic faith, Imam Khalid Salahuddin said. “They have left the fold.”

Just like Jesus said, ‘You know a tree by the fruit that it bears’; you know these people by their work.

Iman

Salahuddin said the show of solidarity by MCCJ “gives us a lot of encouragement,” and called on Americans to educate themselves about the Islamic faith and understand the difference between those committing acts of terrorism, and followers of Islam.

“Just like Jesus said, ‘You know a tree by the fruit that it bears’; you know these people by their work,” he said.

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