PEN America’s statement re: New York mosque/community centre

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

For more information contact:

David Haglund, PEN, (212) 334-1660 ext. 115, david@pen.org

Larry Siems, PEN, (212) 334-1660 ext. 105; cell (646) 359-0594,
lsiems@pen.org

Writers Support Park51 Project, Religious Freedom

New York City, August 25, 2010—PEN American Center, the New York-based
center of the 89-year-old international literary and human rights
organization PEN, today released a statement in support of the proposed
Park51 Community Center project, declaring that the organization stands with
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and with “all who support and celebrate the
freedom” to establish the center on its city-approved site in lower
Manhattan. The statement, signed by PEN American Center President Kwame
Anthony Appiah on behalf of PEN’s Board of Trustees, calls the freedoms
enumerated in the First Amendment “the birthright of all and our best
defense.”

“We oppose all efforts to circumscribe this freedom; we deplore the rhetoric
of suspicion that seeks to deny our common humanity and shared aspirations;
and we emphatically reject the tyranny of fear,” the statement reads. “None
of this is to deny the anguish of those who lost family and friends in the
terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, nor is it to diminish the trauma
we experienced and still clearly share. Nevertheless, we are sure no lasting
comfort or peace can come from abridging the rights of others or yielding to
distrust and fear.”

Appiah said the organization was moved to speak out by the increasingly
rancorous tenor of the debate. “PEN’s historic mission, starting in the
aftermath of the Great War, was to place the literary community at the heart
of the project of building comity across nations,” he explained. “Today,
when the world’s divides are as much religious as national, we know the need
for conversation across our differences is as urgent as ever.”

“If you want an argument that writers have a key place in this moment,”
Appiah added, “remember that Rumi and Ibn Arabi, great Sufi masters, were
also great poets: Rumi, at whose funeral Moslems, Christians, and Jews
gathered in mourning more than seven centuries ago; Ibn Arabi, who wrote
that his heart could assume the form of a Christian cloister, or the tables
of the Torah or the holy Koran.” Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who leads Park51
Center’s backers, is a follower of Sufism, the richly literary tradition of
Islamic mysticism.

The full text of PEN American Center’s statement follows:

PEN American Center Statement in Support of the Park51 Community Center

As members of the American literary community who believe in the
universality of human experience and human rights,

As proud citizens and residents of a country that recognizes the free
exercise of religion as a fundamental benchmark of freedom of thought and
expression,

And as PEN members pledged to oppose any form of suppression of freedom of
expression in our community and country, as in the world elsewhere,

We stand with Mayor Michael Bloomberg, with religious leaders of all faiths,
with political leaders of both major parties, and with all our friends and
neighbors who support and celebrate the freedom to construct the Park51
Islamic Community Center on its city-approved site in lower Manhattan.

We oppose all efforts to circumscribe this freedom; we deplore the rhetoric
of suspicion that seeks to deny our common humanity and shared aspirations;
and we emphatically reject the tyranny of fear.

None of this is to deny the anguish of those who lost family and friends in
the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, nor is it to diminish the
trauma we experienced and still clearly share.

Nevertheless, we are sure no lasting comfort or peace can come from
abridging the rights of others or yielding to distrust and fear.

We have faith that the freedoms enumerated in our Bill of Rights are both
the birthright of all and our best defense.

We invite everyone to join with us in reaffirming those freedoms and the
power of civil discourse as the true vehicle for healing.

Kwame Anthony Appiah, President

for the Board of PEN American Center

PEN American Center is the U.S. arm of the world’s oldest international
literary and human rights organization. International PEN was founded in
1921 as a direct response to the ethnic and national divisions that
contributed to the outbreak of the First World War. Its mission remains the
advancement of literature, the defense of free expression, and the promotion
of international literary fellowship. PEN American Center was founded in
1922 and is the largest of the 145 PEN centers in 102 countries that
constitute International PEN. Its distinguished members carry on the
achievements in literature and the contributions to defending human rights
of such past members as W.H. Auden, James Baldwin, Willa Cather, Robert
Frost, Allen Ginsberg, Langston Hughes, Thomas Mann, Arthur Miller, Marianne
Moore, Eugene O’Neill, Susan Sontag, and John Steinbeck. For more
information on PEN’s work, please visit http://www.pen.org

14 Comments

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14 responses to “PEN America’s statement re: New York mosque/community centre

  1. Here, here. Thank you for posting this. I hadn’t seen it.

  2. Anne Johnston

    Good for PEN America. I have been watching some of the coverage of this contentious issue, and applaud the people who are courageous enough to support it.

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  4. KT

    No person who believes in women’s rights should be tolerant of the oppression of women that is imposed by Islam. Islam is a legal/political system masquerading as a religion.

    • Janz

      How about all religion as legal/political?

      • toby the glover

        Vision. Religion, like art, offers vision. It takes two eyes to see and put two and two together.

        In contrast, artless philosophy is blind analysis, full of proofs which disintegrate what one sees before one’s eyes or feels in one’ heart. Faith and hope follow to fail therefore.

        The world needs a vision which is good for the soul. I think this is what Margaret Atwood’s writing provides.

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  7. SK Werner

    I am very happy to read the PEN statement, and agree with it completely.

    To KT:

    I do believe in women’s rights, and I also believe in religious freedom. Islam is religion as old as Christianity.

    NOT ALL ISLAMIC WOMEN ARE TREATED BADLY. EVERY RELIGION HAS ITS FUNDAMENTALISTS, and allowing the mosque has nothing to do with tolerating abuse of women!

    Shall I demand we not allow the building any more churches, because I don’t like the way Christian men and Christian teachings treat women in the United States? Because, “No person who believes in women’s rights should be tolerant of the oppression of women that is imposed by” … Christianity.

    Maybe YOUR religion will be the next to be targeted with intolerance and fear.

  8. Toby the glover

    Establishing a centre for Muslims in the neighborhood of Zero is thereabouts correct. Men of religion want respect for their dusty visions, which is perfectly legal. But is it good for a gunshot land? I don’t think so.

    The voice of PEN speaks a raft of cliches. We deplore and reject the rhetoric of suspicion and the tyranny of fear. That’s what they all say.

    Each nation has its proud song and its ridiculous dance–and the world is a hothouse shambles. But our fate will be more love, anyway.

  9. Can anyone shed some more light on this?

  10. Thank you for posting this. Really, thank you for posting this. It troubles me quite a bit how all the facts surrounding the building of this cultural center have been skewed by major news corporations and certain politicians. The cultural center is not funded by terrorists. It is not on ground zero. Islam is not unworthy of existing on hallowed ground. And the Imam behind it is a man who has devoted a great deal of time and energy to promoting peace between Islam and other religions.

    Would you be willing to share your views on the French ban of face veils?

  11. Ayatollah Khomeini also wrote Sufi poetry, as does Osama bin Laden. And the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood was an initiated Sufi. I’m just sayin’.

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