Thursday, July 22, 2010

People in glass houses

Let's face it: if America was made of glass, we would have shattered that baby years ago (theoretically, of course).  Seems to me that there's a bigotry problem here in the U S of A, and this is just a (somewhat) friendly reminder of what exactly our founding fathers bought into when they ratified our Constitution.  

Religious controversy in the US has picked up where blatant racism left off, although in this particular case the two are actually closely linked.  I hope anyone who reads this also clicks the supplement links I provided above, not so much for the journalism, but for the comment section at the bottom of the page.  The Internet is both a blessing and a curse--I have beheld some of the most eloquent demonstrations of free speech, and then I have seen this, the hateful drivel that is spewed anonymously in public forums by the uneducated, the un-cultured, and the un-American. 

So some American Muslims want to build a mosque, in addition to a nondenominational community center, two blocks away from Ground Zero.  Unfortunately for the right-wing extremists, the very first amendment to our federal Constitution says they can build one wherever they choose.  But when people have on the blinders of ignorance, all they seem able to produce are ridiculous statements that "Muslims should not be allowed to live in the US", "this mosque will give way to an uprising of radical Islam", and my personal favorite, "we should be dropping nukes on all of them!".  Even the pampered princess of the religious right Sarah Palin publicly dished out her two cents to the Islamic community on Twitter, the worst thing to ever happen to the Internet: "Peace-seeking Muslims, pls understand, Ground Zero mosque is UNNECESSARY provocation; it stabs hearts. Pls reject it in interest of healing."  Huh.  Someone please remind me, what public office does she hold that gives her the authority to do anything regarding this issue, or regarding morality in general?  Maybe she should have made sure her daughter kept her legs closed--having a child out of wedlock was punishable by stoning back in Jesus' time.  Moving on.

The anti-Muslim community's backlash against religious freedom has grown into quite the example of the fear-mongering and misinformation that has become the Republican platform.  People are so paranoid and ignorant that they have just started lumping together all Middle Eastern races into the "terrorist" demographic.  Reality check: there are Muslims whose families have lived in the US for centuries.  Believe it or not, Muslims from Iraq and Afghanistan make up the lowest percentage of American Muslims, with those of Indian and Pakistani descent making up roughly 60% and African Americans making up another 25%.  So it's pretty fair to say that these people were minding their own business the morning of September 11, 2001, just like you and me, and sharing in the shock and mourning of our nation as we dealt with the biggest blow to our nation's pride since Pearl Harbor.  Blaming the entire ideology for the senseless and radical acts of professional organized criminals is just as ignorant as me blaming all Christians for the genocide of the Aztec nation and the virtual eradication of almost every other indigenous tribe in North America--but bigots just can't see the forest for the trees.  They're acting like the NYC Muslims are going to launch an attack from the very roof of this new mosque, when in reality they share nothing with the 9/11 terrorists other than the label of Islam, which is obviously subject to some radical thinking that these Americans do not condone.

Our nation was founded on principles of equality and freedom for all, and even though it's turned into a tangled mess more than once since 1776, the fact remains: our founding fathers really didn't give a hoot what the people believed or didn't believe--they envisioned a society in which everyone did their own thing in peace and without fear of persecution, without dragging deities into the logical government system.  George Washington (my favorite president) and Thomas Jefferson (my other favorite president) treated religion as a subject of academia and nothing more; while they knew it was an important topic for the populace they served, they also knew the damages it caused by separating people from one another in hatred and misunderstanding.  Washington called for people of all religions, even atheists, to apply when he was looking for Mount Vernon staffers, and Jefferson resented efforts by the Christian church to convert him and birthed the idea of separation of church and state.  What we have now is exactly what they discouraged, but the circumstances of our conflict with the Middle East has made tolerating each others' differences much harder. 

Bottom line: the "moral" Americans have very selective standards of which religious practices are acceptable and which are not.  They took the weed from the Rastas, but allowed the KKK to organize and spread terror through the streets, as long as they kept the volume down and pretended it was just a parade.  Now they want to dictate where worship sites can be built?  How large of an anti-Muslim area around Ground Zero will suffice for these people?--oh right, many Christian extremists believe that mosques shouldn't even be allowed on American soil.  Thought like this simply isn't American.  I guess we know who the true patriots are--those who actually open their arms to what our forefathers believed in.

I know someone is reading this right now, getting very angry, and would love to call me out for being too "politically correct".  In case you didn't get the memo: I am an American.  I don't get by on "political correctness".  I get by on the liberties bestowed upon me and everyone else in this country by some of the greatest minds known to politics.  I don't believe in "morality", I believe in humanity.  And, luckily for everyone in the crosshairs of the right wing, the Constitution is on MY side.

As your good friend Jesus once said, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone.” John 8:7.           


  1. Veronica - Have you read the Koran? Do you understand why the concern?

    I understand your idealistic approach to this issue, even admire your devotion to the principals of religious freedom and tolerance.

    Take a look at what is happening in Europe. The goal of Islam is world domination. I again suggest you read the Koran, with open mind I know you have.

    Reading it and sudying its ramifications may frighten you.

  2. I'm not frightened because it's just religion. To me that's like saying I should watch Jurassic Park and be very frightened. I know several Islamic people on a personal basis and know that here in America, those old-fashioned traditional views hold no water. Many traditions remain while many are also put aside. You'd be surprised at what the Bible condones which is no longer socially acceptable today.

    US Constitution > Ancient religious documents. Point being that you can be afraid of the entire religion if you want to, but I challenge you to find a practicing Muslim here in America and have a conversation with them about their religion. If you think all Muslims are conspiring against us, you have another thing coming.

  3. I totally agree with you Veronica. I think it's knee-jerk jingoism based on fear. Americans did something similar during WWII with the Japanese interment camps. And here I had hoped Americans had grown up and matured a bit. This is what happens when people don't pay attention to history, which as a historian really irks me.

    To want to shut down an entire religions right to freedom of worship because some Muslims decided to kill innocent people is ridiculous. It'd be like banning a new church simply because a few wackos how blown up a near by abortion clinic. That's not how America was structured.

    Labeling all Muslims as something to fear is actually EXACTLY what people like Osama bin Laden want. They WANT us to turn the peaceful Muslims against us, so that it will unite them under their flag of intolerance.

    You don't fight intolerance with more intolerance. We should be EMBRACING the moderate Muslims--not turning them away and in doing so push them RIGHT into the hands of the terrorists.

    I think in part it does come down to life experiences as you suggested Veronica. I spent two years in West Africa and all of the Muslims I encountered were nice, peaceful, welcoming people. Were there probably some radicals? Sure, but you can't condemn an entire religion because of some who decide to go out and blow other people up!! I doubt the many Christians here in America would want to be painted with that broad brush. Great post.

  4. I don't think that Islam is after world domination any more than Christianity is.

  5. Veronica - I am not frightened really in the sense (emotional) that I think you mean.

    What is my concern is that the philosopy (theological) if you will is based on that which is evil, at least in part.

    What amazes me is that so few people actually take the time to read the Koran, they just accept that which progressive thought argues.

    As to the critters comment with respect to Christianity, I fully agree... At least with respect to my belief it is the natural desires for all religion to want to spread "its particular word."

    The difference here is the Christian faith at it's foundation (The New Testament) does not call for violence against another faith to spread its own. The Koran does. Christ was said to have made the statement,and I paraphrase, If a man strikes you on one cheeck turn to him the other. Quite pacifist I would say.

    Having said this I must acknowledge that the Old Testament is replete with references to violence. In my view neither the Koran or The Old Testament are ideal models for ethical and moral behavior in several respects.

    And yes there are by far fewer radical Jihadists than moderate Muslims. {And by the way Veronica I know and have associated with many Muslims, some who have became very close and dear friends.}But the number of radicals runs into several millions at the very least. And they are gaining in numbers.

    For me this issue is really not about one religion versus another. I am not at all religious,although I have read the Bible from cover to cover, read much of the Koran, and have a cursory knowledge of Buddism,which really is not a religion at all.

    My belief is that religion is a personal issue. I could care less which religion is the largest or the smallest. Or how any individualchooses to believe, or not.

    What I do care about are those who would give me three choices,and these choices only... either convert, be subjugatd,or die. These are not my words, they come from the Koran. Jihadist around the world are preaching this and recruiting for the cause. Jihad means Holy War.

    I hope your idealism turns out to be correct Veronica, I really do. But history leads me to NOT hold out much hope that it will.

    I am reminded of Neville Chamberland. Evil has many faces. Compromising with evil only serves to strenghthen the evil. This is a battle of philosophy.

    Read the Koran. At the very least understand the radical element that is growing in the religion of Islam. It may very well be your generation which will need to confront a growing violent reality. The radicals in Islam are still living in the 6th century.