Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and his family today attended an afternoon prayer service at the mosque of the Islamic Center of the North East Valley in Scottsdale, Arizona.
A transcript of Flake’s remarks is below.
Transcript of Senator Flake's Comments:
I want to thank the Imam and for the entire community here at the Islamic Center of the North East Valley. Thank you for this kind invitation to be here at this prayer service. This is a first for me. And thank you for allowing me bring my family as well - my two youngest sons, Tanner and Dallin, and my wife Cheryl.
I was speaking to my sons, whose responsibility it is - in our church - to setup and take down chairs before and after meetings, and they say, "this wouldn't be too bad."
Senators, as you know, are known for being able to speak as long as they want, even if they have nothing to say. I will try not to test that proposition today.
As you know, this was a difficult week in Washington. It wasn’t so much the legislative calendar as it was the rhetoric that came forth, mostly from the presidential campaign. That is not in keeping with the values and ideals that have made this country the shining city on the hill that it is. We are a better country than has been on display this week.
I’ll bet you never thought you would see a Mormon speaking in a mosque. I think this is a surprise to me too. We all know how we are different, but let me tell you a few ways that we are similar.
I grew up in a very small town in Northern Arizona called Snowflake. The town of Snowflake was named for my great-great-grandfather, William Jordan Flake and a man named Erastus Snow. They were sent to Arizona by Brigham Young, the head of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mormon Church at that time.
They were sent here to colonize. They founded the town of Snowflake where I grew up, and to say that I had a sheltered environment growing up is an understatement. Just to tell you how sheltered it was, it wasn’t until I went away to college that I even found out that “flake” was a funny term. Nobody made fun of flakes in Snowflake.
In a similar vein, most of those living in Snowflake, if they didn’t share my name at least they shared my faith, my Mormon faith. It wasn’t until I left home after 18, that I realized that my religion seemed strange to some of the people I encountered. Now, gratefully, while there are pockets of misunderstanding that still exist, the most overt examples of persecution for early Mormons faded into history by this time.
There is, as I mentioned, much that separates Mormons and Muslims, but we do collaborate on a number of things - in helping to bring relief after natural disasters. We cooperate, our two faiths, on the translation of ancient texts, and there is much in the history and the tradition, and even some doctrine that is common between us.
As Mormons and Muslims, we trace our lineage to father Abraham. While we may not agree on the divinity or the prophetic calling of Jesus and Mohamed, we all revere them as inspired teachers and leaders.
Early persecution drove Mohamed from Mecca to Medina. Early Mormon persecution, drove the Mormons from Illinois to Utah. I have ancestors buried along that trail.
The principle of the fast is embraced and practiced by both of our religions. My two boys there - a couple of years ago, I took them to an island in the middle of the Pacific to test our survival skills. They got more of a fast than they wanted to. But we both practice the fast in different ways, as well as the responsibility and the obligation to care for the sick and the needy. That is something that is central to both of our faiths.
Muslims make the pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca. The Mormon hajj is to our holy temple. Because like Muslims, Mormons do not drink alcohol, our trip to the temple is usually followed by a stop at Dairy Queen. Ice cream is about all we Mormons have - I'm not sure if there's a corollary for Muslims.
As it pertains to this wonderful country in which we live, I am convinced that an overwhelming majority of Muslims in America, as well as those of Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, and other faiths and other traditions, hold to the American ideal and the constitutional tenant of the freedom of religion. There can be no religious test for those who serve in public office. We do not tolerate religious discrimination in the workplace, or in the neighborhood.
The slogan on the Statue of Liberty - “give us your poor, your tired, and your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” - contemplates no religious test for those who reach our shores.
It is well known by those in this room, but certainly underappreciated around the country, that Muslim Americans have fought and died alongside Christians, Jews and others in every war our nation has fought since the Revolution, including most recently, in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thousands of Muslim Americans have served proudly in our military. Making the same sacrifices as their fellow soldiers to secure our freedoms.
Muslim American law enforcement officers responded to the scene in San Bernardino to ensure the perpetrators were stopped. Likewise, Muslim American emergency personal bound the wounds and provided comfort to the injured. As it was reported by the Imam - this week, Muslim Americans came together and raised, so far, more than $200,000 for the victims of that tragedy there. It was said that they wanted to replace evil with good.
Everywhere around this wonderful country those of all faiths work together, fight together, rejoice together, mourn together and worship together.
My mother, when I was growing up, always had on our refrigerator or elsewhere around the house the phrase, “assume the good, look for the best.” I think that ought be the motto for all of us. It would serve this country well for our politicians and others, to assume the best and look for the good because there is much good there.
My hope and prayer today is that the isolated voices calling for division are overwhelmed by the chorus of voices like those in this room today calling for acceptance, for tolerance and inclusion.
Thank you for all you do for this community. Thank you for all you do to make Arizona the most wonderful state in the union to live.
Thank you for all you do to make this country the beacon of freedom that it is, that shining city on the hill that it will always be.
Thank you for having me and my family here today.