E-mail to long-time friend over her concerns regarding Islam

January 7, 2009

It is difficult and I suspect scary for many of my deeply religious friends to come to grip with that fact that 20% of the world is Muslim.  Due to the sick efforts of a very, very small percentage of Islamic zealots, fear of all Muslims now seems to be common place among many Americans.  I chose not to live my life in fear, but instead, try to keep in mind that every society, religion or any sizable group, has its share of good and bad people.

The Oklahoma City Downtown Rotary is an outstanding organization with over 500 members. I can name a handful of members who are either immoral, unscrupulous or just downright crooks.  Do these losers make all Rotarians bad? Of course not.

There is a lot of irrational suspicion floating around this great country regarding anyone who is different from those of use who are WASP - be they Muslim, Mexican or not too long ago in American history, Jewish, Irish, Asian or Black. This is unfortunate. It is also inexcusable in a pluralistic society. A black minister, Bayard Rustin, once noted: Bigotry’s birthplace is the sinister back room of the mind where plots and schemes are hatched for the persecution and oppression of other human beings.”  I agree.  The following is my comments to an overly hyper friend unduly distraught about Islam.

At the risk of offending some very close friends, let me say that while I applaud the general sentiment articulated by C.K’s email, one troubling statement did catch my eye: ‘under Allah’ (as much of Europe has already fallen victim to” . . .

No question that Islam has some really dangerous and even murderous zealots, but during the middle ages Muslims didn’t burn tens of thousands of people at the stake for heresy or for simply claiming that the earth rotated around the sun. The Catholic Church did.  It was the Catholic Church that also enslaved and sanctioned the murder of perhaps millions of indigenous people in Central and South America.  More recently, there were plenty of dead Irish caught in the crossfire of Catholic and Protestant “Christian” extremists.

Certainly, Europe has issues with Islam, due in no small part to a long-standing caste system that discriminates against anyone of a different race, religion or socio-economic background.  In America, on our really best days, we embrace and even celebrate our differences.

I have traveled to Europe many times and just as important, have read much about the various European countries and their struggle to gain more assimilation of Muslims within their traditional populations. Are there issues?  Certainly.  But both sides are guilty.

Let me pose this question: If you were qualified and applied for a good job, only to be denied because of your faith or color of our skin, then wouldn’t you be angry too. Now imagine if this was the case for generations.

My family has hosted several French exchange students.  The most recent was a young French boy who was 19. He was a Muslim and he was black. Like every Muslim that I have meet, he was also kind, soft spoken, generous and hard working. Sadly, his economic future back in France is beak, filled with profound hurdles that none of us can even imagine. I think it is fair to say that blanket discrimination runs deep in many if not most, European countries. Overcoming differences is their ultimate challenge, just as it is for those us living in that great melting pot called America.

“Fallen victim” is a disingenuous overstep — and I think contributes to and plays on the fears that lie just below the surface of for many Americans.  Never forget that we live in a wonderful, robust, resilient, diverse and talented country that will survive no matter who is President. I just believe that the case being made in C.K.’s email would be ultimately stronger, if it didn’t resort to statements that may not be, in my opinion, 100% accurate.

Entry Filed under: Editorial. .

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Mark Kanter  |  January 8, 2009 at 3:02 am

    Not to mention the kind, smart and beautiful muslim employee who has worked in your office for several years. She too is a very kind person whose goal in life is to finish school (she may have already since I was there) get married to her boyfriend, become an American citizen and enjoy the American way of life.

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