Interfaith leaders speak out against Islamophobia

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Religious leaders on Wednesday condemned a wave of anti-Muslim discrimination sweeping across the country after terrorist attacks in Paris.

“We urge everyone in metropolitan Chicago to oppose discriminatory actions and behavior against all members of religious communities, and particularly, at this time in our history, against Muslims,” the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago said Wednesday.

The national Council on American-Islamic Relations advocacy group released a report Tuesday logging instances of “unprecedented backlash and discrimination targeting the nation’s Muslim community” since the Paris attacks.

According to the report, the group has received more reports of Islamophobic discrimination and violence targeting American Muslims since the Paris attacks Nov. 13 than during any limited period since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“It’s fairly obvious that the proposed threat of the immigrant, the proposed threat of our Muslim brothers and sisters, the proposed or active threat of violence against members of our black community — all of these add up together to an unacceptable pattern of life for our community,” the Rev. Paul Rutgers said Wednesday.

Rutgers, a Presbyterian minister and Council of Religious Leaders executive, warned that by being complicit with actions of fear and hate, people are moving toward disastrous consequences.

The Council of Religious Leaders’ statement against Islamophobia called on individuals and political leaders to “desist from inflammatory rhetoric,” especially with respect to Muslims.

Presidential candidates Donald Trump and Ben Carson have come under fire for making anti-Muslim remarks while on the campaign trail. And more than 30 governors, including Gov. Bruce Rauner, have refused to accept new Syrian refugees.

And last week the House of Representatives passed a bill limiting Syrian refugees into the nation.

Amid ongoing skepticism regarding Syrian refugees and national security, Council of Religious Leaders president Michael Balinsky encouraged people to trust in the federal vetting process for Syrian refugees.

“Statements like Gov. Rauner’s certainly don’t help the situation and only create fear when there is no reason to,” said Balinsky, who is also a member of the Chicago Board of Rabbis.

Balinsky encouraged Chicago residents to “encounter … members of the Muslim community” to curb anti-Islam hostility and promote a more unified city.

“Given the diverse society we have, we have a responsibility to get to know ‘the other,’” he said.

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