This Can’t Happen Here

I was reading NPR on my new iPod (yes, I read NPR, just to be weird) and came across a couple of articles that astounded me. According to what I read, there seems to be a theme in our news.  People think Islam is bad.  They think it is so bad, in fact, that they have to destroy it or symbols of it.

What I know about Islam is comparable to the amount of Spanish I know.  I can order a burrito and ask what time it is, but beyond that, don’t expect much. I know that they have a book called the Koran, that Mohammed is their prophet, and that they are historically connected to the Judeo-Christian ancestor Abraham. I know that their women sometimes wear head coverings, and I know that Fundamentalist Muslims run Iran and took over our embassy some thirty years ago, flew into the Twin Towers on 9/11, and we are at war with them in Afghanistan.  I had a girl who was Islamic in my psychology class last year and she wasn’t a terrorist, so I wrote about her. That’s it, pretty much. So, as I said, I don’t know much about Islam or people that practice it.

What I do know is America and Christianity.

Christianity has a wide variety of practitioners.  There are liberal Christians and conservative Christians, Christians who are violent and Christians who are non-violent, Christians who barely practice their religion and Christians who are devout, Christians I like and Christians I don’t.

All of the Christians I know would be appalled if Muslims burned Bibles.  All of the Christians I know would be terrified and angry if people started burning down churches. All of the Christians I know would be somewhere between furious and cautious if they heard that Christians couldn’t build a church near Ground Zero or some other emotionally charged place.  All of the Christians I know would want someone to stand up for them if they were threatened because this is, after all, America — a place where everyone can practice their religion. Our diversity, our ability to practice — or not practice — our religion is one of the things that makes us great.  The respect for other people’s religions is one one of those things that is still valid in our secular society.  When we, as Americans, take down a cross because the ACLU said we have to, we wince because we’re not sure if it’s a good idea or a bad one. When Black children are bombed and killed in their churches, everyone but the stray psychopath knows something is wrong. When a Jewish cemetery is destroyed or defaced, even though I’m not Jewish, I think it’s sick. When Catholic hospitals are told they have to violate their own faith to get federal monies, I feel the twist in my gut —  even if I disagree with their rules in the first place and believe the government has the right idea. We love religion here in America and we hate it — and we do with that whatever we can.  That tension is hard to live with sometimes, and — as stupid as we can be sometimes — I never want to — and never expect to — be told I can’t practice my religion because this is America and that tension –and the maturity it requires — is what makes America, well… America.

Extrapolating from that, then (and because Jesus said, “Do unto others as you have them do unto you”)… I believe that

Islam has a wide variety of practitioners.  There are liberal Muslims and conservative ones, Muslims who are violent and Muslims who are non-violent, Muslims who barely practice their religion and Muslims who care deeply about their faith,  Muslims I like and Muslims I don’t.

All of the Muslims I know are appalled if Christians start burning the Koran.  All of the Muslims I know would be terrified and angry if people started burning down mosques. All of the Muslims I know (and those I don’t) would be somewhere between furious and cautious if they heard that Muslims couldn’t build a mosque near Ground Zero or some other emotionally charged place.  All of the Muslims I know would want someone to stand up for them if they were threatened because this is, after all, America — a place where everyone can practice their religion. Our diversity, our ability to practice — or not practice — our religion is one of the things that makes us great.  Their respect for my  religion is one one of those things that is still valid in our secular/religious society. When we, as Americans, take down a cross because the ACLU said we have to, they wince because they’re not sure if it’s a good idea or a bad one — even if they don’t what all the fuss is about. When Black children are bombed and killed in their churches, everyone but the stray Muslim psychopath knows something is wrong. When a Jewish cemetery is destroyed or defaced, even though they’re obviously not Jewish, they probably think it’s sick. When Catholic hospitals are told they have to violate their own faith to get federal monies, Muslims feel the twist in their guts —  even if they disagree with their rules in the first place and believe the government has the right idea, because they know they could be next.  Muslims never want to — and should never expect to — be told they can’t practice their religion because this is America and that tension between various faiths and no faith at all  is what makes America, well… America.

So, in today’s news, when it says that some supposedly Christian church in Florida is going to burn the Koran in response to 9/11 and that it scares and confuses Muslims in other countries, I am not surprised. And when it says today that a recent mosque burning was determined to be arson, I am appalled and expect myself as an American to defend their right to worship in safety and in peace. And though I have mixed feelings about it, my higher angels tell me that Muslims should be able to practice their religion anywhere they want to even if I don’t get why they would want to — because this is America.  If we give up our respect of religion and religious diversity, we lose one of our greatest strengths and we stop becoming the America that we were meant to be.  If I have to protect Islam to protect America, so be it.

Now, frankly, I don’t have the time to protect every mosque, synagogue, church or teepee that’s out there and I like the full life I already have.  But if I have to stop what I’m doing, I will.  The right of Muslims to practice their faith is, ironically, sacred to me because America is sacred to me. Unless Muslims can be welcomed here, there’s no point in pretending there’s a great America in which we live and aspire to great things.

So, to everyone who is truly a patriot, I ask you not to threaten, provoke, be nasty to, or get in the way of Muslims in this country.  Let them have their mosques and their Koran. Let them dress the way they want and be part of the great American landscape, because that’s what we do here.  And, to my Muslim brothers and sisters — like my Jewish ones and my Buddhist ones and my Pagan ones and my Christian ones — I say I will protect your rights to practice your faith. If I have to go the burned out wreckage of a mosque, I will. If I have to send money to buy Korans for people, I will. If I have to go to New York City and protest for the mosque there, I will.  It’s not my idea of a fun time, but I will do it because this is America and this can’t happen here.

Peace,

John

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2 thoughts on “This Can’t Happen Here

    • I don’t know who “Trencherbone” is, but I’m fascinated by their response so I wanted to respond. I cannot go through life believing that “Good is Bad” , “Telling the Truth is Lying”, “Peace Is War”. I would go crazy. There is a logical problem with “I always lie. I’m lying now”. It leads to heads spinning and never getting anywhere. This applies to groups as well. Trencherbone speaks of “Moderate” Muslims. I am sure there are, as I’ve said, “liberal” Muslims as well. There are people who don’t consider me a Christian. I’m sure he wouldn’t consider them Muslims. I would say they are, and I have no fear of them. I refuse to believe “all (pick a group) are bad/evil”, simply because I can’t and won’t spend that much of my life-time worrying. I am aware that people like Trencherbone exist. I feel sorry for them.

      Peace,

      John

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