Families of September 11 is now operating as the For Action Initiative. The
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September 10, 2010
Families of September 11 recognizes that there are many different sensibilities and views of its members about the locations, particularly in New York City, of places of association and worship of Muslims and more generally about Islam and those who follow its tenants as variously interpreted by them. Families of September 11 has not claimed to speak as if its members are of one mind on such matters and will not do so. No one, but each of them speaking for themselves, rightly can.
However, five persons who are on the Board of Directors did decide to speak for themselves. See the statement set forth below made by Donald Goodrich on August 26th.
Donald W. Goodrich
1330 Mass MoCA Way
North Adams, MA 01247
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Statement on the Islamic Community Center at 45-51 Park Place
August 26, 2010—Many of those who have launched attacks on the Islamic Community Center proposed for 45-51 Park Place in lower Manhattan have said they are doing so to protect the sensibilities of the families of the victims of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. As the father of Peter Goodrich, who was killed on United 175, and as the chairman of Families of September 11, I write to affirm that no one has the right to speak on behalf of those who lost family members and friends on that terrible day. The sensibilities of family members are varied and are known only to the family members themselves. Politicians, pundits and media personalities who generalize about how family members feel or what offends them, especially in order to gain public attention and political advantage, speak with no authority and are themselves the offenders.
I and the other board members of Families of September 11 realize that we cannot speak for our entire membership, which is not of a single mind on the issues raised by the location of the Center. So we do not. We speak only for ourselves and we do so because of our deep and abiding belief that, in our confrontation with terrorists, we need to be ever mindful of what is fundamental to our national character and show the rest of the world, including the terrorists themselves, that we will never allow demagogues or popular hysteria to break our commitment to the values that have made our nation great.
These principles are embodied in the writings of our founders, our Declaration of Independence, our Constitution, our statutes, the decisions of our judges and the treatises of our scholars. Read together, they make clear that freedoms of religion, thought, belief, and assembly are essential to who we are as a people. The responsibility for protecting these freedoms rests ultimately not with the government but with the citizens of this nation, who must have the moral courage to protect them when they are under assault.
The duties each of us owes the community of Muslims who want to develop the Islamic Community Center on Park Place are not legal ones. They are citizen obligations to protect the fundamental freedoms of religion, thought, belief and assembly embedded in our founding documents; they are moral obligations to respect the human dignity of our neighbors, derived from the best tenets of all of the religions of the world, including Islam; and they are civic obligations to practice restraint in rhetoric and to be willing ourselves to listen to our neighbors, even when we disagree with them.
Those who oppose the Center’s location have had and continue to have legal rights to hold their opinions, associate with one another and speak out about the Center and its location. But in the exercise of their rights, many have discriminated and incited segments of our population to discriminate against Islam and the dignity of those who follow its teachings. In doing so, they have diminished the reputation of our country and dimmed the hope that oppressed people the world over associate with our nation and our commitment to freedom.
We currently have nearly two hundred thousand men and women in uniform serving in countries with overwhelming Muslim populations. In Afghanistan, our primary mission is to train and partner with the Afghan people so that they can govern themselves with the strength necessary to exclude from their midst the terrorists who were responsible for the attacks on September 11th and would do us more harm. What are our Muslim partners in that conflict to think of this debate? And what are our soldiers to think of it? Its hyperbole of hate and mistrust can only weaken their efforts and strengthen the propaganda and resolve of our terrorist adversaries.
Finally, there is little hope of peace without a greater understanding of the different cultures, religions and beliefs of the people who share our ever shrinking planet. Rather than condemning the efforts of those who wish to reach out to their neighbors, we should be encouraging the exchange of knowledge that peaceful coexistence requires. And the closer we come, and the more we listen to and share with those who see the world differently than we do, the better are our chances of finding common ground with them – which is precisely what those responsible for the September 11 attacks want to discourage. Osama bin Laden and his ilk were and are picking what they characterize as a religious fight with us, and those who present all sorts of shrill and hysterical reasons for opposing the location of the Islamic Community Center are playing their game and giving them exactly what they want.
The mission of the Cordoba Initiative is one of reaching out and building bridges. For our part, the board members of Families of September 11 hold out our hands to the leaders of the Cordoba Initiative and ask that they join with us in the search for the common elements of our diverse cultures on which to defend peace in the face of terrorist violence. We ask you to help us make this happen. Not just at some as yet unnamed, alternative location in New York City, but specifically at 45-51 Park Place. The Islamic Community Center belongs in the vicinity of the former World Trade Center. That would be an important and substantial tribute to our family members and friends who lost their lives in lower Manhattan nine years ago.
Donald Goodrich, Chairman
On behalf of himself and Board Members
Nancy Aronson, Timothy Barr, Paul Bea, and David Edwards
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