Archive - Dec 25, 2006
A month or so ago, I got engaged in a conversation on Scott Freeman's site about nonviolence. One of the commenters (an apparently otherwise reasonable, dedicated Christian fellow) said (apparently yelling at the time)"
"I BELIEVE WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING AS CHRISTIANS ABOUT ISLAM AND THE MUSLIMS.THEIR KORAN TELLS THEM THAT THOSE WHO DO NOT AGREE WITH THEM THEN THEY HAVE THE RIGHT TO KILL THEM.TODAY THERE ARE MORE THAN 6 MILLION NOW IN THE US AND OVER 2000 MOSQUE. SURAH 9:29 STATES "FIGHT THOSE WHO BELIEVE NOT IN ALLAH NOR THE LAST DAY. THEY TEACH JESUS'APOSTLES BECAME MUSLIMS. THEIR INTENT IS TO DESTROY CHRISTIANS AND IF YOU REALLY READ THE KORAN THIS IS MOST EVIDENT."
This got me kind of riled up - that the number muslims and mosques in the US is somehow evidence of an increasing threat. That in one fell swoop, the commenter lumped into one group the millions of law-abiding Muslim citizens of the US into the same category as that tiny, tiny number (remember, we're talking about people currently living in the US) of mentally-deranged jihadists who are poised to harm Christians and the population of the US in general. I wrote in response:
jihadists/Islamists are a minority of Muslims (a tiny or effectively non-existent minority in the US). It is unfair, bigoted, and counter-productive to lump all Muslims in the U.S. into the category of suspicion and threat that jihadists deserve - in the same way that it would be unfair, bigoted, and counter-productive to lump all Christians in the U.S. into the same category of danger that includes racist white-supremacist "Christians", the Olympic-park bomber Eric Rudolph associated with the Christian Identity movement, the militant Christian terrorists in Northern Ireland, etc. Lumping the 2 to 7 million Muslims living in the U.S. into the threat category harms the vast, vast majority of them who are no threat and does not help us identify the tiny, tiny minority who are.
I'm reminded of other xenophobia in the news lately like attaching significance to similarities between Obama's name and other infamous world figures or their Islamic origin (link), CNN's Glenn Beck asking a Muslim politician to prove to him that he isn't working with our enemies, and Virginia representative Virgil Goode's anti-Muslim letter to his constituents (Cenk Uygur make a good point about Goode's statement here). This came back into my mind when I listened to last weekend's installment of This American Life (episode 322, Shouting Across the Divide) (available for free as real audio on the show's web site, for free as a podcast in iTunes).
A Muslim woman persuades her husband that their family would be happier if they left the West Bank and moved to America. They do, and things are good, until September 11. After that, the elementary school their daughter goes to begins using a textbook that says Muslims want to kill Christians. This and other stories of what happens when Muslims and non-Muslims try to communicate, and misfire.
Give it a listen. The story of what happened to Serry's daughter is really disturbing and is the kind of thing that naturally arises from blanket demonization of muslims. If you are either or both of these: a) a patriot dedicated to the ideals of religious freedoms and personal rights that are foundational to our democratic republic or b) a disciple of Jesus who, therefore, values compassion and mercy and treating others with love as you would have yourself treated then surely you'll want to be careful not to do anything to contribute the kind of suffering experienced by Serry's daughter.
Updated: 2006-12-28 I'll provide more precise targets by briefly summarizing what I'm trying to say here, and anyone can specify exactly what is disagreeable and why.
1.a. There are dangerous, violent, radical muslims in the world. Some of them may be in the U.S.
2.a. Radical muslims have attacked us in recent years (for example, World Trade Center attack) and will remain a danger for the foreseeable future.
2.b. Radical Christians have attacked us in recent years (Olympic park bombing, bombing and shooting of abortion providers, maybe even the Oklahoma City bombing though I don't think McVeigh considered himself a Christian) and will remain a danger for the foreseeable future.
3.a. The vast majority of muslims in the U.S. are not violent radicals, but are law-abiding, nonviolent, are not a danger, and are not guilty by association with radical muslims whose actions they repudiate.
3.b. The vast majority of Christians in the U.S. are not violent radicals, but are law-abiding, nonviolent, are not a danger, and are not guilty by association with radical Christians whose actions they repudiate.
4.a. The number of mosques and muslims in the U.S. is not a rational measure of the threat posed by violent radical muslims.
4.b. The number of church buildings and Christians in the U.S. is not a rational measure of the threat posed by violent radical Christians.
5.a. Muslim school children should not be ridiculed and ostracized at school because of their religion (TAL 322).
5.b. Christian school children should not be ridiculed and ostracized at school because of their religion.
6.a. Muslim school children should not be proselytized for Christianity in public schools in the U.S. (TAL 322)
6.b. Christian school children should not be proselytized for Islam in public schools in the U.S.