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PRESS RELEASE - Veterans Back Park 51 Muslim Community Center in Open Letter, As Petraeus Warns Against Anti-Islam Displays

By VoteVets.org  |  Press Release
PUBLISHED: September 08, 2010

VETERANS BACK PARK51 MUSLIM COMMUNITY CENTER IN OPEN LETTER,
AS PETRAEUS WARNS AGAINST ANTI-ISLAM DISPLAYS

Letter signed by over 14,000 includes 450 Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans

WASHINGTON, DC - As the commander of troops in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus, is warning against anti-Islam displays in the United States, the largest progressive veterans group in America, VoteVets.org is releasing an open letter of support for the Park51 Community Center, in Lower Manhattan.

The letter from VoteVets.org is signed by 450 Iraq and Afghanistan members, and co-signed by over 14,000 others, including nearly 5000 veterans of other eras, and just over 4000 veteran and military family members.  The full text of the letter is below.

In the letter, addressed to Sharif el-Gamal, the developer of the community center, the veterans write, "For all the talk these days from some quarters about the importance of protecting the Constitution and allowing the free market to work unfettered, those same people are fighting against your community's right to buy property and worship freely...  For our Constitution and for the safety of America and our troops currently in the field, we are writing in full support of your project."

The Iraq and Afghanistan veterans say there are two reasons they are supporting construction of the community center. First, the veterans say their experience in Iraq and Afghanistan leads them to the conclusion that if efforts to stop construction of the community center are successful, it would be a powerful recruiting tool for al Qaeda.

"Defeating al Qaeda will take the use of force. But, it will also take destroying their ability to recruit, and that means winning hearts and minds. As veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we know all too well the importance of having the people on your side," the veterans wrote.

That point was echoed yesterday by General David Petraeus, in regards to a planned "Quran Burning" on September 11th by a Florida Church.  Of that event, Petraeus said to the Wall Street Journal, "It could endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort.  It is precisely the kind of action the Taliban uses and could cause significant problems. Not just here, but everywhere in the world we are engaged with the Islamic community."

Second, the veterans note that their oath to protect the Constitution did not end when they left the service.  They explain that construction of the community center is about freedom to worship, and that "It's up to us to stand up for the right for all Americans to enjoy the Constitutional freedoms that so many around the world don't have."

VoteVets.org began asking veterans and civilian supporters to sign the letter last week and quickly gained thousands of signatures.

VoteVets.org is a pro-military organization of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, dedicated to the destruction of terror networks around the world, with force when necessary.  It primarily focuses on education and advocacy on issues of importance to the troops and veterans, and holding politicians accountable for their actions on these issues.

# # #

Dear Mr. Gamal, 

As veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we are writing to support your right to build a community center on the property you purchased in Lower Manhattan, and urge you to continue on with your project. We encourage you to distribute this letter to all those who may be interested, so they know that veterans like us see this as an important issue of our very Constitution and our national security. 

There are two very important reasons we are choosing to speak out. First and foremost, when we signed up for service, we swore to uphold the Constitution. For all the talk these days from some quarters about the importance of protecting the Constitution and allowing the free market to work unfettered, those same people are fighting against your community's right to buy property and worship freely. Our duty to protect the Constitution didn't end when our service did. It's up to us to stand up for the right for all Americans to enjoy the Constitutional freedoms that so many around the world don't have. So, we are standing up for you. 

Secondly, allowing the Community Center to move forward will deal a blow to the propaganda of al Qaeda and Islamist extremists, who recruit on the talking point that the United States is in a war against Islam. Of course, we're not. But, if those forces of intolerance win, it will certainly appear that we are in a war against one religion - Islam. 

As Matthew Alexander, a former interrogator in Iraq, and VoteVets.org member wrote at the Huffington Post, "Imagine an al Qaeda recruiter attempting to sway a potential charge by citing an imaginary American war against Muslims but having to face the counterargument that Americans built a Muslim community center near the site of the former Twin Towers. The Cordoba House would be a powerful symbol of U.S. tolerance and freedom that will stand in direct contradiction to al Qaeda's narrative that Americans hate Muslims." 

That's the point. Defeating al Qaeda will take the use of force. But, it will also take destroying their ability to recruit, and that means winning hearts and minds. As veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we know all too well the importance of having the people on your side. 

For our Constitution and for the safety of America and our troops currently in the field, we are writing in full support of your project. As veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, we believe the construction of your community center isn't "anti-America" at all. In fact, building your community center is about as pro-America as one can get. 

Sincerely,

[Over 14,000 Signees Attached Here, Including 450 Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans]

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