Philly Religious Leaders Condemn Donald Trump’s Anti-Muslim Rhetoric

Leaders across Philadelphia's faith spectrum are highly critical of the candidate's call for a ban on Muslim immigration.

Republican presidential candidate, businessman Donald Trump, speaks during a rally coinciding with Pearl Harbor Day at Patriots Point aboard the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown in Mt. Pleasant, S.C., Monday, Dec. 7, 2015.

Republican presidential candidate, businessman Donald Trump, speaks during a rally coinciding with Pearl Harbor Day at Patriots Point aboard the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown in Mt. Pleasant, S.C., Monday, Dec. 7, 2015.

Yesterday, prior to speaking at a campaign event in South Carolina, Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump issued a press release calling for a total ban on Muslims entering the United States.

The call has drawn fire from other Republican politicians, including several who are critical of the Obama administration’s strategy for combating the fundamentalist Islamic State organization, also known as ISIS or ISIL. It also may have played a role in acts such as last night’s desecration of the Al-Aqsa Islamic Society mosque by an unidentified man who threw a severed pig’s head at its door. It’s also led to the Philadelphia Daily News likening Trump to Hitler on today’s cover.

But as Trump has seized on Islam itself as the grounds for the ban, we thought it more appropriate to ask leaders in the local religious community to respond. Several did:

Adam Kessler, director, Jewish Community Relations Council:
“It is morally and ethically reprehensible. It is a contradiction of everything we stand for as Americans. I’m not sure it’s Constitutional, and as a strategy for making us more secure, it seems deeply flawed. We in the Jewish community are stunned at these kinds of developments because we have been the target of these kinds of attacks in our own history.”

Rev. Ruth Santana-Grace, executive presbyter, Presbytery of Philadelphia:
“I’m sad that I even have to comment on those remarks. We as Presbyterians find any statement demonizing an entire people of one race a grave concern, especially in a nation of immigrants. Trump’s remark is an unhelpful political strategy that is grounded more in fueling fear than courage and the creativity on which our nation was founded. I understand that as a nation we are feeling vulnerable because of extreme jihadists, but is this a realistic solution, or a moral or ethical one? No.”

Lucy Duncan, director of Friends relations, American Friends Service Committee:
“Our religion was founded in opposition to state religions, and we suffered a lot of religious persecution in our early days, which is why many of us migrated to the United States. Our principles are the basis of our Constitutional doctrine of separation of church and state, and we have worked with people of all backgrounds who have suffered persecution throughout our land. What Trump is doing is very dangerous because he’s a high-profile person running for the highest office in the land, and his statement opens the door for persecution. Most of the mass shootings in this country are committed by white men, and nobody’s saying we should close the border to white men. My Muslim friends say that what’s more horrifying than the acts themselves is the silence of those who witness them. We need to be upstanders, not bystanders, in the face of these acts. We Quakers believe in ‘that of God in everyone,’ and that includes our Muslim friends.”

Jacob Bender, executive director, Council on American-Islamic Relations, Philadelphia Chapter:
“From the Muslim community’s point of view, the desecration of the Al-Aqsa mosque should not come as a surprise, given that this Presidential [campaign] season has brought out the most egregious attack on an American religious minority that we can remember. And with candidates falling all over each other seeing who can be the most anti-Muslim, it is no surprise that someone can be moved to do stupid and ignorant things like put a pig’s head in front of a mosque.

“Up until yesterday, we had not had a serious episode of Islamophobia in this city, and that’s attributable to the work of CAIR and its colleagues in the Christian and Jewish communities and friends in City Hall. While we may have serious disagreements, such as over policy toward Palestine, Jewish and other religious leaders have come together in Philadelphia to denounce bigotry and hate.

“I think Trump has, and by extension Ben Carson and some of the other candidates have, given the Islamophobes permission to wallow in their own worst instincts.”

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