26 August, 2010

Yes, we DO have a problem

As you've probably read, things are not well here at the moment when it comes to religious freedoms, constitutional rights, common sense and basic decency towards others.

Anti-mosque sentiment seems to be growing across the nation, well beyond the site of the Park 51 project. The latest case involves a store-front mosque in Kentucky. The property owner claimed he had no problem with Muslims worshiping there, but they couldn't park right. When asked what his feelings would be toward Baptist worshipers if a church opened in the space, he responded that those people would know how to park right.
Fear the Muslims, America! They may ding your car!
I might add that this man has obviously never met some of my Baptist relatives who are terrifying behind the wheel, though I'm pretty sure it has nothing to do with their religious beliefs.

And, this morning brings news of a man barging into a mosque in NYC, berating worshipers and urinating on the prayer rugs.
That story follows the horrible and bizarre story of the NYC taxi driver stabbed by his fare after responding to a question about his religious beliefs. Some people emphasize that both men were drunk. A lot of us have been inebriated at some point in life. As a result, we've been stupid, rude, silly, nauseous and maybe even gotten in trouble. However, I'm pretty sure most of us have never stabbed somebody for their religious beliefs or relieved themselves in a house of worship. Much like other drunken behavior roundly condemned recently - anti-Semitic and racist remarks - there are certain lines most of us won't - CAN'T - cross even if under the heaviest of influences.

I was relieved to read that people in Gainesville, in my home state of Florida, have organized peaceful, interfaith actions to respond to a small, fringe church's plan to burn copies of the Quran on 11 September. The pastor claims he is burning them because they are "full of lies", which is rather ironic since the Quran is full of many of the same characters and narratives found in the Bible.

I can tell you from experience, this is not an issue solely of the Right. I have corrected false and, occasionally, pretty wretched comments from people who self-identify as being progressive or of the Left. And, as many have noted, those speaking out against all this anti-Muslim sentiment come from across the ideological spectrum. Who actually acts on misinformation and hatred is a different issue, beyond political division.

Stabbing people, burning sacred texts, urinating in houses of worship, denying worship space for reasons beyond real zoning issues, smearing an entire religion and all 1.5 million followers of that religion goes quite a but beyond "phobia", stupidity or lack of awareness.
This is hate, pure and simple. It is disgusting. It is dangerous. It is cancerous. It must be countered. And this goes for any issue of hate and discrimination.
If somebody says something that you know is not true, correct them.
If there is a movement to deny rights to members of your community, get active.
If you don't know enough, go learn, ask.
Don't know a Muslim? Call your local mosque and ask for a tour.
During the month of Ramadan, many mosques hold iftars (meals to break the daily fast) that are open to the whole community.
Aside from being a nice way to get to know others in your community and great learning opportunity, the food is often amazing and the mood joyous.
Just do something. To do nothing is to be complicit.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I, with a group of wikimedian, headed down to park51 because they wanted to see it for themselves and they were in town for the wikimedia nyc conference. We walked a long way from nyu and when we got there, there were 2 guys standing out front: one old and one young. The old guy tried to disarm us by taking about the center as though it was like a ymca or jcc and how they needed the space for the growing population in the area. They knew what wikipedia was and asked about the page about the center on the site. It was not locked as there isn't that much on it and it needs more edits. We spoke with them for a while and they mentioned iftar was approaching. One of the fellows from paksitan wanted to contribute to the cost of the iftar. Shortly after this, we left having had a nice chat when these guys. He had told us about the protesters that had been near the site all through out the week. They wanted to protest ConEd because of their indirect ownership of the site. And went to that building after they 'made some noise' at the site.