Mayor's decision to hold City Council session at mosque draws criticism

SEATTLE -- Seattle Mayor Ed Murray will give his fourth State of the City Address next week -- at the Idris Mosque.

While some are applauding city leaders’ show of support for the Muslim community, others are concerned about a public event in a religious space.

Arsalan Bukhari with CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said this move by the mayor and City Council is a huge step in bringing communities together, but the co-president of Freedom from Religion argues that holding such a meeting in a place of worship raises serious concerns.

“At a time when leaders, political, business, and other leaders and have been saying things that aren’t only false but also defamatory about Muslim leaders, it is an important gesture for a civic leader to stand at a mosque to signal to the public American-Muslims are our neighbors,” said Bukhari.

However, some are concerned that the location of the State of the City Address implies preference for a religion.

“To force people to go to a place of worship to participate in secular government, that is crossing the line,” said Barker. “There are Americans, some in Seattle, who will never go into a mosque because religion is basically divisive.”

In response to the criticism, the mayor’s office said in a press release that council meetings have been held in religious institutions in the past in an effort to stand with communities facing persecution, including black churches in the civil rights era.

However, Freedom from Religion leaders say that doesn’t make the action right, especially when it appears to show preference to a religion. They said the organization has gotten some complaints from people in Western Washington, who felt uncomfortable about conducting city business in a mosque.

However, the minister of Seattle’s Atheist Church said their church is standing with the Muslim community and feels the mayor and city councilors are sharing a message of tolerance.