[Adapted from my monthly column, For Goodness' Sake, in Front Porch Magazine]
Where did it come from, today’s rampant, unchallenged, wild-eyed tsunami of Islamophobia…and its apparent, un-American sense of entitlement to bigoted speech against a world religion? Some in this debate seem to believe that if “we” are offended, it removes any reasonable constraints about our behaving to offend.
Islamophobia 2010 is clearly a reaction to the proposed “Ground Zero Mosque.” I won’t weigh in on that explosive debate in this brief article. The point is that the mosque war is causing some unacceptable, ironic casualties in our deeply-held American values called freedom of religion and respect for diversity.
Before you leap out of your breakfast nook and shout that I’m labeling the Ground Zero Mosque a topic of “religious freedom,” let me reiterate: this is not about the mosque. We’re jeopardizing religious freedom because of the mosque debate. God forbid we should hold up the Constitution in one hand and burn a Qur’an with the other. We really don’t need to display hypocrisy to the world while we move into an era of improved cooperation.
We hear the refrain against Muslims: “They are waging a stealth jihad against America!” So, here is my two-part response to concerns that The Muslims are Waging a Stealth Jihad against America:
A) Yes, there absolutely is a stealth jihad underway. Any group sophisticated enough to carry out the complex attack of 9/11 is smart enough to come at the problem (us) on multiple fronts. They told us who they are: al Qaeda. Al Qaeda says it speaks for Islam.
Remember that Hitler said he spoke for all good Germans.
B) No, it’s not “the Muslims” who are after “us”, any more than cop killer Eric Rudolph and his supporters could be interpreted as proof that “the Christians” are out to murder abortion doctors.
Think about it. If you identify yourself as Christian, do you also consider yourself a member of “Christian Identity,” which believes all non-Whites go to hell? Do you identify with Reverend Phelps, founder of the “God Hates Fags” movement? They protest at military funerals and laugh at grieving family members.
There are unsettling similarities between warnings to WATCH OUT for Them-There Muslims and der Fuhrer’s hysteria-laced speeches warning about the menace of Them-There Jews.
Remember your neighbors as human beings. In the decades before 9/11 (committed by a handful of radical, self-described Muslims), millions of Muslim Americans lived within an American society that had overcome widespread suspicion about a global Jewish conspiracy (WW II demonstrated that Them-There Jews were not actually in charge of world affairs), a disgraceful era of state-run segregation against Blacks, and the surprising election of a Catholic as one of our most beloved presidents. Muslims serve in the U.S. military and politics alongside Hindus, Buddhists, and atheists.
There is a difference between “Muslim” and “al Qaeda.” All al Qaeda members call themselves Muslims, but very few Muslims want to be al Qaeda.
I have read the entire Bible…twice. I have read the Torah, and I have read an English interpretation of the Qur’an. It’s important to understand what different people believe. (One uncomfortable factoid is this: most Christians haven’t read the Bible through.) The stories are similar.
Some challenge the claim that Islam is a religion of peace. They say it’s not like Christianity because it’s full of violence. Hang on a second while I look through the scriptures of my religion…ah, here it is. Joshua 6:21, in summing up the delightful story of God’s explicitly-directed conquest of Jericho: “They devoted the city to the LORD and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it—men and women, young and old….”
That’s Jews, folks, and they’re the spiritual ancestors of the Christians. The Vile Deed (have you ever seen even one toddler who’s been eviscerated by a large blade? I have) is recorded in the Christian holy book alongside numerous other historical-spiritual examples that would turn your stomach inside out. We don’t have time to match the Vile Deeds of the Bible and the Qur’an one-by-one to see who can claim to be more peaceful. That wouldn’t even be a relevant exercise, because the point is that it’s easy to criticize while hiding one’s own warts from view. (In fact, fellow Christians, Jesus is recorded as having told His followers to first regard the planks in their own eyes.)
This article is not intended to raise Islam above Christianity or vice-versa. It asks only that we pause in our daily drama to consider where each of us is really coming from. I do believe in God, and I do believe He made us all. I’m also pretty sure that each of us is flawed and sees only a small part of the whole picture. That includes Muslims, yes…and Christians and Wiccans and Confucianists – oh my! In most of our traditions, the teachers said that the holier thing is to recognize a brother or sister under God.
During a great talk with my SEAL buddy Dave, he put the whole thing into perspective with a clarity (and brevity) that I lack: “It was easier when we were kids. We watched the cowboy movies and the news, and they were the same – we always knew who was wearing the Black Hat. Someone has to wear the Black Hat.”
Let’s search our hearts humbly before slapping the Black Hat onto a billion of the world’s humans.