Opinion – America’s Muslim Problem
The scenes of jubilation and ecstatic release coming from Washington D.C. and New York in the wake of Bin Laden’s death struck many around the world as tasteless. Many people here in Beirut remarked that it was ironic watching scenes of joy and excitement coming out of the U.S. because of the death of Osama bin Laden when the same type of joyful street parties swept Gaza and Damascus ten years earlier upon hearing the news of al-Qaeda‘s successful attack against America.
I’m not going to write about what Osama bin Laden’s death means for American foreign policy or make value judgments about the impromptu street parties that sprung across America. While I would never attend on of these “Osama Death Rallies,” I wouldn’t go so far as deem them tasteless. What is tasteless is the rise of anti-Muslim fervor sweeping the country. The events of September 11th were no excuse for the rampant Muslim and Arab discrimination that swept the country in the early years of the last decade. I even asked Mike Huckabee, then the Governor of Arkansas, at a school visit in September of 2001 if he had any plans to protect the Muslim population of Arkansas or enforce hate crime legislature (I was in eight grade at that time and hadn’t even met a Muslim in my life). His response was that Muslims were citizens of Arkansas and would be protected under the law just as any citizen would. But they weren’t. September 11th unleashed a floodgate of religious intolerance across the United States and now ten years later the news of Osama bin Laden’s demise has placed the American mindset into a time machine.
I understand that the news of Osama bin Laden’s demise ripped opened a scab on a healing wound and caused many people to relive September 11th, confront emotions not felt since then and reexamine that fateful day. All of these are healthy natural reactions to such momentous news but suddenly remembering that you are a bigot and using Osama bin Laden’s death as the auspices for racist, bigoted, and hateful actions is shameful and un-American. Generally I read about a steady stream of hate crimes involving Muslims in America and that alone disturbs me, but after Osama bin Laden’s death a huge wave of highly published events made me sick to my stomach. First, a Texas teacher told a Muslim ninth grade student that “I bet you’re grieving” at the news of Osama bin Laden’s death. He has since been suspended and subsequently is no longer working for the school district. Then came the fairly mundane instance of Mosque vandalism in Portland Maine were the perpetrators spray-painted “Osama today, Islam tomorow [sic].” The Police Chief, James Craig of Portland had this to say about the incident in article from the Portland Press-Herald:
“This is not reflective of the Portland community,” he said. “Absolutely not. In fact, this is an anomaly.”
Members of the mosque told local press in Portland that the vandalism was jarring.
“It makes me feel like I’m not welcome,” mosque Treasurer Abdiaziz Mohamed told the Press-Herald.
Later, that same day, I read a news article about two Muslim men “wearing traditional Arab garb” who were kicked off a plane because the pilot refused to fly with them on board, saying that they would make other passengers uncomfortable. When they protested citing their respect in the Memphis community and the fact that they had went through TSA security, they were we quickly escorted off the plane. The story gets better. The men were on their way to an anti-discrimination conference. If this wasn’t enough, the next day I read this story about a man who placed a sign out in his yard that reads “Bomb Making, Next Driveway.” The man lives next door to a mosque. His defense is that it doesn’t specify which driveway.
Fighting ignorance with ignorance, I love it.
America has a long history of religious tolerance but with religious tolerance also comes religious intolerance. We don’t live in a perfect world and America is far from being perfect. Stories of religious intolerance and Islam aren’t exclusive to America; France has a storied recent history of Islamic intolerance, as does Switzerland. People point to religious intolerance of Christianity in Africa and the Middle East of examples of how “they hate us”. The “why they hate us” question was thrown around a lot in the wake of 9/11. I would never point to America’s religious intolerance or even tolerance as an answer to such a monolithic question but I would hope that if America does inspire to be some sort of shining city on a hill and an example of human rights for the rest of the world than the country’s citizens start acting like it. I would like to hope that these events are isolated events perpetrated by an ignorant sect of the American public but this isn’t the case. I’m sure one can find a thousand other instances of inter-faith dialogue and community activism in which my few examples pale in comparison and are over shadowed by. Jon Stewart’s segment “Big Mohammed’s House” were a Christian church opened up its doors on Fridays for the Muslim community to pray is one of those examples. There is also the shining example of Temple Shalom in Northwest Arkansas that to this day I use when talking to people in the Middle East about religious tolerance in America.
Religious tolerance isn’t one of those things that once its established is a permanent entity. Catholicism and Mormonism still face challenges to this day in America about their general acceptance in America’s religious fabric. 9/11 and Bush’s foray into Iraq sparked a wave of anti-Islamic sentiment in America and seemed to crest in the later years of the last decade. Osama bin Laden’s death has been a catalyst for such sentiments to bubble back to the surface. It is an ignorant and illegitimate excuse for inexcusable actions against other Americans. People seem to forget the al-Qaeda has killed more Muslims than Americans during the last decade and that OBL represents Muslims just as much as Timothy McVeigh represents Christians. The America I believe in and represent every day when I walk around in the Middle East is better than the actions of a few scared and intolerant people, but it takes public action and awareness to combat the acceptance of these events within American society.
You can read Cory’s original post here.
Image Credit: Portland Press-Herald, 2011
Share This Article
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.