Tuesday, September 14, 2010

9/11 and the Hatred of Muslims

One of the saddest aspects of the anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks is the renewal of anti-Islamic rhetoric. The news, instead of being dominated by remembrances of the victims of this tragedy, are saturated with stories of groups or individuals who loathe Islam and paint the entire religion and all its over one billion adherents as terrorists.

Unfortunately, this year's sad anniversary occurs as the controversy over the Muslim community center set to be built near ground zero escalates. Ironically, those protesting the community center often portray themselves as "patriots". Yet they are not upholding American ideals. The 1st Amendment of the Bill of Rights states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof". In the United States of America, every individual has the right to practice his or her religion in any location and in any manner as long as it does not infringe on the rights of others.

Many of those opposed to the community center also shout about "sensitivity". Sensitivity to what? Muslim Americans died in the World Trade Center that day, along with their fellow Christian citizens. Since when has freedom of religion come with the caveat of "sensitivity"? Should Christian churches not be allowed near the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial because Timothy McVeigh was a Christian?

An even worse idea I have heard put forward by some of these protesters is that mosques should not be allowed in the United States because Christian churches are not allowed in Saudi Arabia. So what? We are not Saudi Arabia. We are not a theocracy. Frankly I find this argument not only disgusting, but childish. It is nothing more than the adult equivalent of "He does it, so why can't I?" Any mature person should be content that those people and belief systems different from their own deserve the same rights.

Another tragedy comes from Flordia and the Rev. Terry Jones, who threatened to burn a copy of the Qur'an. At the last moment, he decided not to go through with this hateful demonstration. But the damage is done. Two people have died in riots protesting his actions. No political statement made in hate is worth someone's life.

Islam is not perfect. Neither is Christianity. Or Buddhism. Or Judaism. All religions can, and have, been used for evil purposes. It does not mean that the religion itself is evil or that its believers do not deserve the same rights and protections. The actions of a few misguided radicals does NOT define Islam and we should not let it define our reaction to Muslims exercising their freedom of religion.

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