Human Rights First Lauds Interfaith Efforts to Display Tolerance, Not Bigotry

Human Rights First welcomes the efforts of more than 20 religious congregations in Gainesville, Fla. to unite in hosting a series of events to affirm religious solidarity and tolerance as a small congregation plans to burn the Holy Koran in their community on Sept. 11. The group also called on state leaders – from members of Congress and Governor Charlie Crist to local leaders – to condemn bigotry and support tolerance.

“These events reflect the solidarity and understanding that have strengthened religious freedom and shaped this nation’s history. The planned burning of the Koran – although it may be legal – is deplorable. Even the actions of a few hate-mongers can contribute to a climate of hostility and undermine the security of entire communities,” said Human Rights First’s Tad Stahnke. “Far too often, events celebrating our diversity are overshadowed by media stunts designed to reinforce the false perception that our society is torn apart by bigotry. We praise this coalition of faith communities for their efforts to combat hatred by raising their voices with a very different message.”

During the planned Gainesville events, religious leaders will incorporate Muslim, Jewish, and Christian scriptures into worship services on Sept. 11 and 12. Community members will be encouraged to attend an interfaith prayer service focused on peace and understanding, as well as join together to celebrate Iftar, the evening meal that marks the end of fasting for Muslims during Ramadan. The activities will occur as the Dove World Outreach Center conducts its controversial ceremonial burning of the Holy Koran.

“These events offer state leaders the perfect opportunity to go on record and stand with their constituents who are dedicated to promoting an atmosphere of understanding and solidarity,” Stahnke noted.

Since 2002, Human Rights First’s Fighting Discrimination program has worked to strengthen the response to antisemitic, racist, xenophobic, anti-Muslim, homophobic and other forms of bias motivated violence. Human Rights First advances concrete, practical recommendations, urging governments to implement the organization’s Ten-Point Plan for Combating Hate Crime. Human Rights First also encourages governments and others to confront hatred while respecting freedom of expression, including by counteracting intolerant speech, reducing fear among the targets of hatred, diffusing community tensions, and working with affected communities to prevent violence.

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