Over the last two years we have seen a tide of hate-mongering and Muslim-bashing wash across the United States. Mosques have been attacked in California and Tennessee, and ever since the Islamic Cultural Center was planned for lower Manhattan, it seems that this wave is building daily. Recently, the Islamic Cultural Center, which would be located two blocks from the site of the former World Trade Center, has gained a lot of attention in the US and across the world. I have always felt that America owes its liberty, prosperity, basic human rights and democracy to a dependence upon, and submission to God. Immigrants of all faiths who come to America’s shores should be able to find this land brimming with irresistible and life changing freedom.
But we find that a disgruntled few on the fringe have completely tried to take over the discourse on what it means to be “American.” Among them is the stunt pastor, Terry Jones. Jones and his flock of fifty seem to lack a basic understanding of the Muslim faith and what it stands for. His stunt- the planned burning of the during the last days of Ramadan- shows that his intention is to promote hatred. Hatred of his neighbor. And we know that hatred leads to fear and has horrible impacts on our communities.
Pastor Jones was completely ignorant about the faith of more than one billion Muslims, admitting that all that he had “learned” about Islam had come from YouTube videos. It is unacceptable to allow a few bigots to dominate our collective understanding, and perpetuate a culture of fear and hate. Fortunately, this incident was also a positive example of the power of the people. The public condemnation of Jones’s behavior forced an end to some of his intended actions.
Cultural and ethnic diversity imbue this society with the strength and resilience to take on any challenge we face. If we can come together to engage ourselves with open minds and the zeal to learn and respect each other, we will all be closer to the dreams our founding fathers planned for this great nation. Freedom is universal, but the actions of the Florida church and of Jones were an attack on that freedom.