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“Freedom of religion is a hallmark of this country. It is time to decide whether or not we are going to live up to our values.” – Dr. Ingrid Mattson, immediate past President of the Islamic Society of North America

This quote reflects well the challenge we as a country face in light of the past week’s controversy surrounding advertisements for TLC’s reality TV show All American Muslim. The show highlights five American Muslim families experiencing life in ways which we as Americans hold dear: beginning a family, serving in law enforcement, and coaching high school football. At the same time, they are shown practicing diverse expressions of their Islamic faith.

As religious leaders, we are committed to standing shoulder-to-shoulder with American Muslims – and with any religious community – when their ability to practice their religion or to express themselves publicly without fear of reprisal is compromised. Public displays of religious diversity in America are a cause for celebration, not for controversy, because they testify to the strength of religious liberty in the United States.

Withdrawing advertising support from All American Muslim due to pressure from an organization espousing anti-Muslim motivation is far from neutral. These demands send a chilling message to American Muslims that both their religious and non-religious practices are un-American and should be shielded from public view. The success of these demands has revealed again the outsized power of a relatively small group whose fear-based messages are amplified socially, in media and, at times, by Members of Congress against American Muslims.

We stand by the principle that to attack any religion in the United States is to do violence to the religious freedom of all Americans. Efforts like that against All American Muslim perpetuate the serious anti- Muslim discrimination that has grown in recent years, and our religious communities cannot sit by idly while American Muslims’ freedoms are compromised, or their day-to-day activities played down or covered up. We challenge those invested in this controversy in any outlet – politically, online, in media, or in business – to cease propounding an exclusionary narrative, presenting it as normative or expressive of American values. We challenge you never to pull your support from any religious community in the face of discriminatory ideologies.

We urge those companies which have withdrawn their advertising from the show to publicly apologize and reinstate their advertising.

As national faith leaders, we bear a sacred responsibility to honor America’s varied faith traditions and to promote a culture of mutual respect and the assurance of religious freedom for all. Our society will be strengthened by confronting this challenge to the continued inclusion of American Muslims in the United States. We celebrate the valuable contributions they have made to our society through their service, family, worship and vocation.

Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, General Secretary, National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA; Rabbi Marc Schneier, Founder and President, Foundation for Ethnic Understanding; Imam Mohamed Magid, President, Islamic Society of North America;

Submitted on behalf of Shoulder-to-Shoulder: Standing with American Muslims; Upholding American Values, a campaign of 27 national faith groups, denominations and interfaith organizations working to end anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States by strengthening the voice of freedom and peace. www.ShoulderToShoulderCampaign.org

To learn more on these three powerful leaders, click next.

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Rabbi Marc Schneier, Founder and President of The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, founding Rabbi of The Hampton Synagogue in Westhampton Beach, New York and the New York Synagogue in Manhattan

Rabbi Schneier is Vice-President of the World Jewish Congress and past president of the North American Board of Rabbis and the New York Board of Rabbis, as well as an active member, serving on the boards and executive committees of numerous organizations.

An advocate of tolerance and understanding between different ethnicities, Rabbi Schneier has been honored by the United States Congress as well as the State of Israel, and is the recipient of the Kelly Miller Smith Ecumenical Award from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Martin Luther King, Jr. “Measure of a Man” award from the NAACP, the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, the Civil Rights Leadership Award in Honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., the New York State Martin Luther King, Jr. Medal, and the American Civil Rights Education Services Civil Rights Award.

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Imam Mohamed Magid, President of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA)

Imam Magid has a long history of commitment to public service through organizations, such as The Peaceful Families Project, Annual Twinning of Mosques and Synagogues, Fairfax Faith Communities in Action, Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington Assembly and the Buxton Interfaith Initiative.

He has much experience serving the nation-wide Muslim community as ISNA’s East Zone representative and as ISNA Vice President prior to his election in September 2010 as ISNA President.

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Rev. Michael KinnamonGeneral Secretary of the National Council of Churches

Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) clergyman and a long-time educator and ecumenical leader, Rev. Michael is the ninth General Secretary of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the country. 

He was executive secretary of the WCC’s Commission on Faith and Order from 1980 to 1983 and had a major role in drafting the World Council of Churches’ major planning document, “Toward a Common Understanding and Vision of the WCC.”

He has been the Allen and Dottie Miller Professor of Mission, Peace and Ecumenical Studies at Eden Theological Seminary since 2000. He was professor of Theology and Ecumenical Studies at Lexington, Ky., Theological Seminary from 1988 to 2000 and was dean of the seminary from 1988 to 1998.

Kinnamon was Assistant Professor of Theology at Christian Theological Seminary, Indianapolis, from 1983 to 1988 and Acting Dean from 1986 to 1988. He was a visiting professor at United Theological College and South Asian Theological Institute, Bangalore, India, in 1987 and 1997.