After over two years of construction, on Saturday night, August 25, 2012, the Chattanooga Islamic Center hosted a grand opening celebration - with U.S. Attorney Bill Killian giving welcoming remarks.
Approximately 250 individuals from all sectors, including federal, state and local officials, law enforcement, and representatives from the general public from all religious groups, attended the event.
After a tour of the facilities and dinner, attendees were welcomed by Dr. Mounir Minkara, Anoor Academy board member, and Bassam Issa, president, Islamic Society of Greater Chattanooga. Then,U.S. Attorney Killian delivered one of two keynote addresses for the evening, Commitment to Civil Rights.
As Salaam Alekum
It is an honor to be here and speak to you.
It is heartwarming to see such diversity on the celebration of the opening of this beautiful Islamic Center of Chattanooga. You are, as you should be, proud of this accomplishment. You and the city of Chattanooga are examples of how this process should work.Throughout this city, county, state and nation all will be able to see how government operates under our Constitution and laws when all Americans treat each other as equals.
Our Muslim and Arab-American outreach program thrives on such events as these and the participation of various people. I met Bassam Issa through my friend Zia Kabiri, who I have known for 35 years. He and Sam were roommates at UTC. It is a small world indeed.
What is an American? It seems to me that unless you are 100 percent Native American or American Indian, then you or your ancestors immigrated to this country. Most, if not all of them, immigrated with a hope for Justice. They were leaving or sometimes escaping a societyand a form of government that did not provide Justice. Justice is doing the right thing. It really is a simple concept. Interestingly, you may remember in the Preamble to the Constitution, establishing Justice was second only to creating a more perfect Union. Of all of the Arab American, Muslim, Hispanic, African-American, and other groups that I have met and spoken with, they all say one thing - "We just want to be treated like everybody else. We just want to be treated as the Americans we are."
Some people think that there should be different categories of Americans. I have searched the Constitution and many federal statutes and have been unable to find such a classification. They are searching for legitimation or documentation of their hate or prejudice. It cannot be found.
Hate and prejudice can arise when people have no information about other persons and their backgrounds, or the information that they have is incorrect. Misinformation is used to justify attitudes of hatred and prejudice. The group being targeted is then unjustifiably portrayed as somehow inferior or less worthy of rights and privileges of citizenship.
Basically, those exhibiting hate and prejudice choose a value system of hypocrisy and exhibit a double standard. They want to be free, under the Constitution and statutes of the United States, to enjoy their liberty and freedom. However, they feel that those whom they do not understand or with whom they do not agree should not have those same Constitutional and statutory rights.
This value system of hypocrisy was not intended by the framers of the United States Constitution, nor the members of Congress who passed the federal civil rights statutes. The federal statutes apply to everyone and will be enforced equally. The greatest cornerstone of Justice and due process is that the law applies equally to all.
As stated by Martin Luther King, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
You need not like the color of a person’s skin, practice their religion, agree with their sexual orientation, enjoy their various cultural traits or appreciate their disability. However, under the law, we must respect their civil rights.
I have always enjoyed experiencing the new and different foods, culture, religious practices, and the interaction and conversation among diverse people. Those people influenced by prejudice should be so fortunate as to enjoy the fellowship, cultural exchange and camaraderie of this event.
Whether Gurdwara, Synagogue, Temple, Church or Mosque, we must preserve and enforce the First Amendment’s freedom of religion.
We have been, are now, and will always remain the greatest country on this earth. Our diversity is our strength. Respect for, and the embrace of various cultures is a pillar, upon which our great nation was founded. Even though we are culturally diverse, more unites us than divides us. As an American, there are no excuses to be made, for your ethnic origin, religious preference, sexual orientation or any other identity. We all are and will remain Americans, "with liberty and Justice for all."
Thank you again for the privilege to be present and speak with you. Congratulations on your achievement, and for allowing us to be a part of your dedication and celebration of this beautiful Center.
Salaam and Peace Be Unto You.
Maha ElGenaidi, president, Islamic Nationals Group, was the second featured keynote speaker of the night. Ms. ElGenaidi’s speech, entitled Role of Islamic Institutions in the American Culture, provided information about the issues facing Muslims in America today. She marveled at the number and diversity of the attendees at the event and praised the cooperation that the Mosque has received from both the city of Chattanooga and the community as a whole.
The night closed with remarks from other officials in attendance including Ken Moore, Special Agent in Charge (SAC), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Knoxville Division, who pledged the continuing support of his office. SAC Moore noted that the FBI has exclusive jurisdiction to investigate and enforce federal civil rights violations in the district. He assured the Islamic officials present, as well as all community members, that the FBI stands ready to assist them should an incident occur.