Archive for August 1st, 2010

Ugly Islamophobia

Two stories in the news show the worst of American intolerance and ignorance of other people.   One is the opposition to Muslim mosque and outreach center being built a few blocks from the site of  9-11’s “ground zero.”   The other is a bizarre tea party protest against the Six Flags amusement park company for having a “Muslim family day.”   To the extent these bigots make the international news, the reputation of the United States is further sullied by those who understand neither their country nor the world today.

The Muslim mosque and community center is designed to help improve relations between the various communities.   It is dedicated to helping the growing American Muslim community connect with Christian, Jewish and western enlightenment agnostics/atheists, as well as to educate Americans about what mainstream Islam is all about.

The idea that it should not be built because it would cause “pain” to the victims of 9-11 is like saying a church should not go up near a school after all the pedophilia cases recently.    Pedophilia by Catholic priests is not about Christianity, it’s about those priests and the reaction of the Church.   9-11 was not about Islam — most Muslims did not believe the act could have been done by members of the Islamic community because terrorism is so contrary to the teachings of Muhammad.    9-11 was about a radical extremist fringe.  The Muslim community center should be embraced as a way to signal to and connect with that vast majority of Muslims who reject violence and terrorism and want to be part of a vibrant American culture.   We should embrace it as recognition that the 9-11 perpetrators were not acting for Islam, and in fact damaging the religion through their heinous deeds.

To make matters worse, the Jewish Defense League came out (in a rather nuanced way) in support of the bigots!   I realize that Israel is dealing with some extremist groups and is disliked by the Muslim world, but by  justifying the kind of bigotry that Jews have so often endured, the JDL looks hypocritical and disingenuous.   They should also have taken the stance that this isn’t about religion, it’s about evil extremism.   The mosque/Community Center is designed to be the antithesis of that extremism.   It should be welcomed, it should be a partner.

The tea party opposition to a Muslim family day is even more disgusting.  Six Flags has routinely been offering this every year at the Eid (the end of Ramadan) as a way to help Muslims celebrate.   This is a time for community gathering, and that’s often difficult for Muslims who live alongside others of different faiths.   This is a place to come together.  It was coordinated originally by a Muslim who later died on 9-11 in the terror attack.

Why would the tea party now come out against this?   It could be that given the anti-Islamic rants against the New York City Community Center, they’re just finding Islamophobia intoxicating.   It also could be that the date this year — September 12th — is close to the 9th anniversary of the terror attacks.   The timing is not due to that, however, but the changing time of Ramadan (Islam runs on a lunar calendar, so the years are shorter, meaning holidays take place at different times of the year according to the western solar calendar).

This tea party trash, er web site not only totally lies about what the Koran teaches (it takes orders by Muhammad to his small community living in Medina after the Quarysh of Mecca attacked them wanting to wipe them out — things like ‘lie if you are outnumbered’ or ‘kill the polytheists’ — and pretends they are universal orders), but has outlandish claims like “they are not like us,” “they are not American,” and, recognizing that this does sound like a call to ignore the first amendment, claims Islam isn’t even a real religion!   They forget that Muhammad said there should be no coercion in religion, that no Muslim should fight someone who does not want to fight, or that Christians and Jews (of whom Muhammad had many friends) should be treated with respect.

In short, that “tea party patriot” website sounds more like something you’d find from Joseph Goebbels in the 1930s — lies so obvious and obscene that it’s amazing people fall for them.

This has got to stop.   It makes the US look like a bunch of ignorant bigots to the rest of the world, and feeds an irrational fear.   Al qaeda and Islamic extremists aren’t even able to win over people in the Arab world.   They don’t want the bizarre spartan theology of Bin Laden, they want the benefits of modernism and openness.  They understand Islam as a religion of submission and peace, not conquest and terror.  Why should we push them away, the only one benefiting from the tea party rhetoric is Bin Laden and those of his ilk.

Some tea partiers, being very conservative Christians, might believe that God wants them to wipe out the infidel Muslims as a false religion.  Therefore, the idea of co-existence and tolerance is anathema — in their religious belief system, Islam is evil.   More bluntly, they are Christian versions of Bin Laden, willing to support wars that kill numerous civilians to try to, as Ann Coulter put it “conquer and Christianize them.”   But that belief is a delusion.  Not only has Iraq and Afghanistan proven  that beyond our capacity, but Islam as a great world religion is not going to go away.

Wouldn’t be better to help convince Muslims that the West can learn to understand and cooperate with them, respecting their differences while asking them to respect ours?   Aren’t those the principles upon which our country was founded. The Nazis called Jews and those who disagreed with Nazi ideas “un-German,” and the tea party website now says that Muslim citizens aren’t “real Americans.”   Hopefully saner voices in the tea party movement — those wanting smaller government and worried about debt — will stand up and do their movement a big favor and not only reject the bigotry of these shrill Islamophobes, but even embrace Muslim family day at Six Flags and the Mosque/Community Center in New York.

In short, the tea party says it wants to embrace the principles upon which this country was founded.  I call on them to do, and renounce those within their movement who want to embrace the principles upon which the Third Reich was founded.

UPDATE: To add to the insanity, a Florida church looks even more Nazi like with a “burn the Koran” day scheduled for 9-11.   They have been condemned by the Association of Evangelicals and Florida is looking into their tax exempt status.  But still, this is a sign of unhinged ignorant fear.