Monday, August 30, 2010


We all know the furor going on about the Park51 project. There's lots of trash being talked on both sides of the debate. I haven't talked much about it, because I don't think politics and religion mix well, but I've been thinking about this a lot.

I struggle with Islam and with Muslims in general. I have personally known a lot of very-not-nice Muslims who treated me and others like dirt, and who made comments about how we "deserved to die" and such. That doesn't help. Yet as someone training to be an interfaith minister, I continue to make an effort to understand, to expand my knowledge, because that just is what I should be doing.

This morning we had a conversation about Muslims in general. Someone pointed out that quite frankly, it wasn't 19 random strangers who plowed into the WTC, Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania. They were Muslims, and made sure people knew about it. We were labelled infidels, less than human, and so were judged okay to kill by their understanding of the universe.

So... when going on a plane today, we are subject to random searches (acceptable and right, because it catches the random weirdos that come through). However... because of politics, not every Muslim going through security is checked. Our sense of "right" and "morality" tells us it's not fair to say "if 19 Muslims did that bad thing, all Muslims must be suspect." The problem is, many Muslims do not share that world-view with us. Their morals are very different from our own. What this leads to is the scary looking Muslim man getting on the plane without a second glance (well, okay with LOTS of second glances but with airport security's hands tied), and Granny being strip searched because she had her false teeth in a baggie of fluid she was taking in her carry-on luggage. *sigh*

One of the big reasons that this has bothered me so much is because sometimes, there really is something to worry about. Those 19 Muslims didn't spit in our soup, or say bad things about our parentage. They ran fully loaded airplanes into buildings that crumbled and fell and traumatized a nation. I have to think to myself, you know, it's okay to be worried about that. It isn't an imaginary fear. It isn't fear born out of ignorance or unwarranted hate. It's based on something real, something flaming and exploding and falling, something still killing firefighters and first responders today. It is real.

This is the same reason that I cross the road when I am walking alone at night and am being approached by someone in fatigues with a bald head and swastika tats all over. Sure, he might be a normal person just like me, but he might also be showing the world his prejudices and hatreds, proud of them. It's the same reason I feared to be approached by a black male in downtown Baltimore. It's the same reason I don't hang out in areas where intravenous drug users sleep. It's just dangerous.

Why is it considered politically acceptable to fear the black man, or the Neo-Nazi, or the drug abuser... but not the Muslim? Please note, I am NOT advocating hatred; I am talking about fear. I do not condone violence, and I believe very strongly that everyone should have the right to believe and worship as they wish, provided they aren't harming others in the process.

But I don't think we can legislate away fear. I don't think that having Americans being coerced into presenting warm fuzzies to Muslim people here is necessarily going to fix anything. Education (both for Americans who are not in the know AND for Muslims in and out of the United States) would help a lot. Trying to force them into "playing nice" isn't going to work, though. In my opinion, it will never work, until the Muslim nations begin playing by the same civilized rules as the rest of the world.

Frankly, I'm tired of being scared. I'm tired of having to try and think circles around my own brain in an attempt to be a good and ethical interfaith minister.
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