Islamophobia in America

It happened in New York City.  A man got into a cab and after going a few blocks asked the driver if he was a Muslim.  When the driver confirmed that he was, the passenger began to repeatedly stab him.  The driver did have several cuts, but was able to get the cab pulled over and lock the assailant inside.  Luckily, the driver, who has been in the country for more than 25-years and has raised his family here in that time, was not killed.  And this all ties into a recent Time magazine headline that asks, “Does America Have a Problem with Islam?”

This entire situation has been thrust into the news lately because of a plan to build a mosque/Islamic cultural center 2 blocks from Ground Zero.    The two sides in that debate are religious freedom vs. Ground Zero being sacred and building a mosque within sight of it is an insult to those who died.  Now I do agree that Ground Zero is sacred and hollowed ground.  But once you get off the site, how far must a Muslim go before they are free to worship?  If two blocks isn’t enough, then is three or four?  How about the other side of Manhattan or maybe in a different county or a different state?  Where is this magical line that is drawn?  And why is it that one important piece of information has been lost within the debate of this…. that Muslims have been worshiping in the current building on the site for almost a year now without so much as a peep from the general public.  It’s only been since the announcement of tearing down the current building and replacing it with one that looks much nicer and is better suited to fit the needs of that niche of the community.  Now I add that it would be nice, and a great show of respect to the overall community, if the Imam would reveal where the funding came for this new building… so we could be assured that it does not have ties to Islamic extremists.

The attacks on September 11, 2001, have greatly changed how we Americans view those of the Islamic faith.  In a recent Time-abt SRBI poll, 46% of Americans believe Islam, more than any other faith, encourages violence against nonbelievers… and only 37% actually know a Muslim-American.  So does the second number in the poll relate to the first one?  Of course it does.  The more we tend to know about people, the more we tend to understand them.  As a young man, fresh out of college, I was fortunate enough to work with a couple of Muslim-Americans.  This was after the 9/11 attacks, as well.  But it gave me a chance to get to know these individuals and the knowledge I gained is insurmountable.  And these individuals/former colleagues have no idea how much their actions shaped how I view the overall big picture.

We tend to forget that it was not Muslims… or people of the Islamic faith… that attacked the United States on 9/11.  It was Muslim extremists that attacked us.  And there is a huge difference between the two things.  One could say that Muslims celebrated the terrorist attacks… and that is probably true in Muslim nations where we have interfered in their internal matters for our own personal gains.  But in this nation, most Muslim-Americans were horrified by the attacks that day and were right there with the rest of us arm-in-arm (shoulder-to-shoulder) ready to hunt down those that would dare attack us.  They cried along with us over the loss of their family members, friends, and colleagues… and I’m not referring to the hijackers either.

When does it become acceptable to blame and punish everyone of a particular community or faith for the actions of a limited number of extremists?  My answer to this…never.  Some might say that we can’t tell the difference between those that worship Islam peacefully and the extremists who want to kill all who don’t agree with them.  And that would be correct.  However, if I suddenly walked up to you during World War II and started speaking German, one would not know that I’m an American simply because there is no visual difference between us.

And something else that I’ve noticed that I want to raise a question on.  Is there really a difference between Christian extremists and Islamic extremists?  Having heard propaganda from both sides, my answer is ‘not at all’.  In fact, I wouldn’t put it past an extremist Christian to launch a major attack against a Muslim nation or the people of the Islamic faith.  And one can’t look at history and say that a Christian would never do such a thing.  Where was such an outcry when Timothy McVeigh, who wasn’t a Muslim or an Islamic extremist, blew up the Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City?  Back when the Catholic Church pretty much controlled Christianity, one must only think of the Crusades and even the Inquisition.  Even when the Pilgrims came to America to escape religious persecution in Great Britain, they still managed to persecute anyone that didn’t share their beliefs and kick them out of the Plymouth colony… which is oddly enough how the settlement in what is now Providence, Rhode Island got started.

We must remember that there are extremists in all the religions… those that would take things to the far extreme because someone else doesn’t agree with them.  We are supposed to be a nation founded on religious tolerance… so where has that gone?  Why is the general American populace unwilling to allow peaceful, law-abiding Muslim-Americans to worship freely as those same people allow us to do?  The attacks on 9/11 did show us a couple of things.  First, they showed us the lengths religious extremists will go to.  They have opened our eyes to the broader picture.  Unfortunately, most people are only tending to look at that half of the larger picture rather than the entire thing.  And second, it has brought out the signs of religious divide and that something is wrong if it is different than the social, or religious norm.  Former Speak of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich recently compared Islam with Nazism.  I would have to disagree with the former Speaker.  It is the American masses that are starting to act more Nazi… whereas it must be Christian and Aryan or it’s wrong and must be eliminated or at least segregated from normal life.  Most Americans would want everyone to think that it’s an “us vs. them” mentality, but it’s more along the lines of “us vs. ourselves.”  We must learn that there is a difference out there in the real world amongst things and that not all people get drafted into one complete category or another.  Stereotypes are the root of all hatred and evil and somewhere along the lines, a civilized person must be willing to say enough is enough.

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4 Responses to Islamophobia in America

  1. Tom Klimczyk says:

    I could not agree more. It sickens me how much hatred and religious intolerance has been infecting Americans. If we just take the time to understand Muslims, we wouldn’t be hating them in the first place.

    • James S. says:

      Thanks, Tom. I’ve always felt that religion should be about love, acceptance, and tolerance toward all people. Feel free to spread the link for this entry to others to help spread that concept. And thanks for reading. 🙂

  2. Muayna Elsir says:

    This post is greatly appreciated by me and by every muslim i am going to show it… for someone to realize that while almost all others hate us or are scared of is amazing… I thank u for your wisdom in this matter…

    • James S. says:

      It is never fair to judge a group of people by the actions of just a few radicals. Everyone has the right to be judged by the content of their own character. Sometimes, a little common sense just needs to be put out there to knock some people upside the head. LOL I thank you for reading Muayna Elsir. And I’m glad that you liked what I had to say.

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