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07.22.2015 _____________________

Dear Sen. Ayotte: I understand you’ve been invited to attend the New Hampshire National Security Action Summit scheduled to meet in Bedford on Saturday. Sponsored in part by the Center for Security Policy, the “summit” will host such virulent Islamophobes as Frank Gaffney, John Guandolo and retired Adm. James “Ace” Lyons.

While it’s scheduled, I’m sure, to serve to mobilize some of the most extreme right-wing elements in America, it will also serve as an attempt to disenfranchise New Hampshire’s small – perhaps smallest in the country – Muslim community, and I am asking for your support in repudiating their message of hate.

New Hampshire’s Muslims are a small group, a nearly immeasurably small sector of the state’s population, that is well assimilated, peaceful and (surprisingly to me!) in some cases Republican. As one Muslim friend said to me in 2012 when I was pleading with him to vote for Obama, “I vote Republican because they’re pro-family.” You’re their senator and New Hampshire’s Muslims would appreciate hearing from you.

Many New Hampshire Muslims are beginning to feel alienated. The adoption of an anti-Sharia plank in the New Hampshire Republican Party platform, the attempt to initiate a New Hampshire “Draw the Prophet Muhammad” contest, the declaration of a “Muslim-Free Zone” by a New Hampshire gun shop owner and now the hosting of an event that includes in its agenda the “threat from Iran, shariah (sic) and the Global Jihad Movement” to “both our nation and the state of New Hampshire,” frightens many.

Senator, you and I come from opposite ends of the political spectrum.

We’ve differences that range from the Affordable Care Act to the arms agreement with Iran, which I support. What’s important, I believe, is that we’re able to respectfully disagree on such issues based on intelligence, strategic interests and security – not on disagreement undergirded by fear and Islamophobia.

Today, over six years after Barack Obama became president, there are Bedford “summit” attendees who still believe that Barack Obama, CIA Director John Brennan and even Grover Norquist are Muslims. There are those who believe, as one of the invitees, Jerry Boykin, said, “Our God is greater than their God.” Those voices don’t represent my America nor do I believe it’s your America. While we can be partisan and loyal to our parties and political philosophies, we have a greater responsibility to be loyal to our Constitution – and to Truth. Loyal to a country where “All men are created equal.”

The brilliance of our forefathers was not whether they knew any Muslims, liked them or even trusted them. Their brilliance was incorporated into a vision that for America’s promise to be fulfilled, everyone – including, as Massachusetts Chief Justice Theophilus Parsons wrote in 1810, “Deists, Mahometans, Jews and Christians” – had to be welcome in America’s public square.

These are trying times for America’s Muslims. Certainly Muslims have a role, and responsibility, to help America confront extremist violence, which many have done, as I’m sure your Senate intelligence briefings have confirmed. If American Muslims, who are so much happier and assimilated than European Muslims, feel targeted and vulnerable, if they believe even their elected officials may be allied against them they may, I fear: 1) Become reluctant to speak out about other Muslims who might be acting strangely for fear they themselves will be targeted, or 2) Find themselves drawn to radical extremists who will preach, “See, America’s secular, civil society won’t protect you. Come under our banner and we will protect you.” That’s a dangerous message, Senator, and together we have to find ways to confront and defeat it, not by excluding, isolating and disenfranchising citizens but by assuring all they’re equally valued as Americans committed to the same “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” promised to all regardless of creed, color or gender.

When all are valued all will be empowered to protect and defend the Promise of America.

Please repudiate the haters, Senator, who cross New Hampshire borders trying to sow dissent and disharmony. Reject those who would divide us.

(Editor’s Note: Sen. Ayotte is not attending this event.)

This column appeared originally in the Concord Monitor.

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