By: Rafael Sanga, MPAC Policy Intern
In recent years, there has been a troubling increase in both the frequency and severity of violent attacks on houses of worship across America, which are nothing short of domestic terrorism. No American should feel unsafe in their house of worship. MPAC President, Salam Al-Marayati has advocated for increased access to safety resources for faith-based organizations as a part of the Homeland Security Advisory Council Task Force. As a part of our advocacy efforts to protect faith-based communities, MPAC strongly supports the Pray Safe Act, an act which will help reduce and prevent violence against religious groups by streamlining access to critical security information and resources from the federal government. The act has cleared the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and is now bound for the Senate floor.
The Pray Safe Act, which was introduced by Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Maggie Hassan (D-MI), aims to help houses of worship protect themselves against domestic terrorism. If passed, the act would establish a federally operated clearinghouse that would provide houses of worship and other faith-based organizations with a multitude of resources geared towards ensuring the safety and security of their members. The act requires the government to provide up-to-date information on the best practices for safety and security, information on federal grant programs that would provide monetary aid to at-risk groups, and access to training materials that maximize safety.
Passing the Pray Safe Act would be a vital step towards ensuring the safety and religious freedom of countless American Muslims. In recent history, the overwhelming response to violent attacks has come in the form of thoughts and prayers, which, though an essential part of building an empathetic national community, lack the efficacy required to prevent such atrocities from occurring again. This is precisely what makes the Pray Safe Act such an important piece of legislation. Houses of worship lack easy access to security information as well as adequate funding to update their on-site security measures. Solving the lack of funding as well as the lack of knowledge will greatly increase preparedness and, put simply, will save lives. Muslims throughout the nation have felt helpless against the prospect of hate-fueled violence inflicted upon their communities. The Pray Safe Act offers resources that are critical for making mosques the safe and open community pillars that they are meant to be.
Although the main solution to safety in houses of worship lies in targeting the social, political, and cultural mechanisms that have given rise to domestic terrorism, the Pray Safe Act represents a tangible policy change that would immediately increase the safety and security of religious communities nationwide. Guaranteeing American Muslims the freedom to attend their places of worship with peace of mind and body is integral to ensuring that Muslims are not treated as outsiders in American society. The Islamic values of human dignity, freedom, and equality for all are heavily represented within the U.S. Constitution, and the Pray Safe Act helps solidify the Muslim community’s access to these ideals.