Opposition to mosque goes against our religious freedom

Apr 27, 2016 Issues: Equality & Opportunity

The growing volume of hateful speech and deplorable treatment of Muslims in our country is deeply disturbing. This country was founded on the principle that people can practice whatever religion they choose. We are stronger as a nation precisely because our Constitution guarantees religious liberty.

I am sad and angry to hear that plans for a new mosque in Mukilteo have been met with resistance and fear. The 2nd District has a long history of appreciating diversity, showing kindness toward those who need a hand and maintaining strong, welcoming communities. Communities in Northwest Washington know better than to let fearful prejudice influence how we treat our neighbors. Telling people their place of worship is not welcome is wrong, and it defies every value of freedom and tolerance that make our country exceptional. I understand there are efforts under way in the community to begin to repair the damage, and that is a good start. Now we have to go above and beyond in welcoming our neighbors to heal and rebuild trust.

Rather than letting hateful and discriminatory rhetoric define how we think about Islam, I encourage people to get to know their Muslim neighbors. Our similarities are greater than our differences; we all want quality education for our kids, good-paying jobs and the chance to contribute to our communities. If you have questions, I challenge you to learn and connect. People who are supporting the new Islamic Center of Mukilteo have invited community members to attend an event to learn more and to ask questions. Mosques are centers of worship, fellowship and service. Adding another gathering space where people celebrate their faith together can only strengthen the fabric of our community.

Diversity in our communities fosters richer perspectives, more innovation and collaboration. Isolation fragments us and spreads toxic fear and prejudice. That is why I am working to break down barriers and build up inclusive communities. I want Northwest Washington to be a welcoming place for immigrants, including refugees from war-torn parts of the world.

We can make the choice today to defend the foundation of religious freedom and tolerance that defines our country as a place of hope and opportunity. I know that many people in our area are happy to welcome the new mosque. It is this kind of community spirit and engagement that I see in Northwest Washington that gives me hope that bigotry will lose, and that we will stand together in support of diversity and inclusion. Let us stand together.

U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Washington, represents the 2nd Congressional District.

This guest column appeared in the April 23, 2016 edition of the Everett Herald