An "emergency meeting" of Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders met in Washington Tuesday to denounce what they see as anti-Muslim bigotry. The event was put together by the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) in conjunction with organizations who included the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism; the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding founded by Rabbi Marc Schneier; the Jewish Council for Public Affairs; and the National Council of Churches. David Saperstein of the Religious Action Center and Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, were also among those participating.
The religious leaders said they came together "to denounce categorically the derision, misinformation and outright bigotry being directed against America's Muslim community."
"We believe the best way to uphold America's democratic values is to ensure that Muslims can exercise the same religious freedom enjoyed by everyone in America," the group statement added.
"Freedom of religion is a hallmark of this country," ISNA President Ingrid Mattson told reporters at the National Press Club. It is time to decide "whether we are going to live up to our values."
The coalition's statement denounced what it called "a disturbing rise in discrimination against Muslims." It declared that the current level of "hostility, fear mongering and hate speech is unacceptable and un-American."
There are, to be sure, a few contemptible schemes like this, which have been condemned time and again by people across the political spectrum. But Mattson and company offered no real evidence that any epidemic of anti-Muslim persecution has engulfed the United States or that their religious liberty is in danger.
The absence of evidence didn't prevent ISNA from reaping some public-relations gains. The group issued a press release boasting that after the "emergency interfaith summit," some attendees met with Attorney General Eric Holder to discuss "measures the Attorney General and the Department of Justice can put in place to combat the surging anti-Muslim rhetoric, messages of hate, and acts of violence that have occurred against American Muslims."
At Tuesday's press conference, which was covered by news outlets including the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, Fox News, PBS and Al Jazeerah, the assembled journalists showed negligible interest in whether ISNA or its allies could provide actual evidence of anti-Muslim hatred beyond the actions of a miniscule lunatic fringe.
Notably absent were any questions about ISNA itself, including its historic connections with the Muslim Brotherhood or its status as an unindicted co-conspirator in the trial of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, whose leaders were convicted of providing $12 million to the terrorist organization Hamas. Veteran reporter Mary Jacoby last month provided this useful primer on questions the media consistently fails to ask about Islamist groups like ISNA.
For her part, Mattson is evasive when questioned about Hamas. At the press conference, the Investigative Project on Terrorism asked her about the refusal of Ground Zero mosque Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf to condemn Hamas. Mattson replied that she was unfamiliar with Rauf's views. "Well then, what are your views on Hamas?" IPT asked. Mattson begged off, saying she had another interview to do.