Monday, September 13, 2010

My America

Yesterday, a friend took me to a service at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Diego. I scanned the printed program. "Recitation from the Holy Koran," I read. Interesting. In walked the minister of the church, Rev Arvid Straube, with Imam Taha Hassane of the San Diego Islamic Center and his two young daughters.

A number of members of the church welcomed the Imam and his daughters. The Imam and the minister went to their places, the daughters sat directly in front of me.

The Imam explained that the Koran is the Word of Allah, and should be recited in one's most beautiful voice. He sounded forth a wonderful aural caligraphy, of all things not unlike that of a Jewish cantor reading from the Torah. Same God, same children of Abraham.

The Imam was moved by the warm welcome he received. He noted that a number of individuals from this church had attended his mosque the day before. His daughters, in the meantime, were taking this all in. They looked this way and that way. The oldest one had a camera. She lined up her shots and began clicking.

I could say a million words. Instead, I will conclude with the complete text of the letter that George Washington, early in his Presidency, sent to the Touro Synagogue in Newport, RI:  


While I received with much satisfaction your address replete with expressions of esteem; I rejoice in the opportunity of assuring you that I shall always retain grateful remembrance of the cordial welcome I experienced on my visit to Newport from all classes of citizens.

The reflection on the days of difficulty and danger which are past is rendered the more sweet from a consciousness that they are succeeded by days of uncommon prosperity and security.

If we have wisdom to make the best use of the advantages with which we are now favored, we cannot fail, under the just administration of a good government, to become a great and happy people.

The citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship.

It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.

It would be inconsistent with the frankness of my character not to avow that I am pleased with your favorable opinion of my administration and fervent wishes for my felicity.

May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants; while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.

May the father of all mercies scatter light, and not darkness, upon our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in His own due time and way everlastingly happy.

G. Washington

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