In response to the Islamic Society of Greater Augusta’s proposal to build a new mosque, Councilor Darek Grant claims that it’s “a fair question” to raise concerns about the group and where it gets its funding. I respectfully disagree.

A simple test will determine whether it is a “fair” question: Would we raise similar concerns about other religious institutions? Would we be suspicious about the motives or funders of a Christian group seeking to build a church in the same area? We know the answer. The only reason that these questions are raised at all is because the congregation is Muslim, and some people wrongly assume that Muslims are linked to terrorism.

The fact that the mere building of a house of worship is considered “sensitive” or controversial is a sad reflection of the unwarranted fear that too many of us have about Muslims. We must move beyond those fears. So long as the mosque meets all the requirements and regulations that any development must meet, then the Augusta City Council should support the proposal.

We as a community, however, should do more. As a nation founded in part by people fleeing religious persecution, we should welcome the mosque as a sign of America’s powerful tradition of religious freedom. As a state with a long history of supporting the rights of minority communities, we should embrace Muslims for who they are: constructive members of the community who happen to practice a different faith. As a city whose citizens follow a diverse array of religions, we should respect the rights of all people to worship freely (or not at all).

We should welcome, embrace and respect — not simply tolerate — the new mosque. It will be a wonderful addition to our community.

Chris Myers Asch, Hallowell

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