By Franklin Lamb
12 April, 2011
Beirut: Whatever becomes of the truly pathetic “Pastor” Terry Jones and his plans to appear later this month at the largest Mosque in Michigan to condemn Islam and to generate some media attention while provoking all decent Americans and people of good will everywhere with his hate speech, will not be of much lasting import to Muslim and American relations.
Even as Jones prepares to act as grand inquisitor and plans to prosecute the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) for various imagined crimes, it reminds us that when it comes to intolerance, nothing is new under the sun in our land that beckons with its Statue of Liberty near Ellis Island in New York harbor:
“Give me your tired, your poor/ Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free/ The wretched refuse from your teeming shore/ Send these, the homeless tempest-tossed to me/ I lift my lamp before the Golden Door.”
Muslims and Arabs who began arriving in America in the middle of the 19th century have in many ways embodied the intended fulfillment of the American dream promised in the above words of Emma Lazarus. The reasons that Muslims are often described as being “As American as apple pie” includes exactly their qualities that every Westerner observes and often comments on if they are fortunate enough to live among Muslims abroad or have Muslims as neighbors in their communities in the USA.
These Muslim qualities, the product of Islamic culture and Koranic teachings, including the five pillars of Islam, result in strong law abiding families with respect for their elders, comprised of fun loving and hardworking individuals who sacrifice for their children, have respect for education, compassion for humanity and who perform acts of unsolicited charity for the less fortunate, and exhibit tolerance of the views of others.
Muslims make up slightly more than 1% of the 308 million Americans, but according to recent FBI statistics, since 9/11 and the seemingly eternal US government War on (of) Terror, Muslims in America are currently the target of nearly 15% of all hate crimes.
Robert Kennedy used to say during US Congressional hearings on hate crimes that approximately 20% of the American public is unfortunately quite capable and indeed ready for believing just about anything and acting violently toward their neighbors while being easily influenced toward racism, xenophobia, and hate of “ the other.”
It appears that not much has changed since the violence of the 1960’s in America when some of our best leaders were assassinated. Sociologists claim that the American penchant for irrationally fearing different cultures has been true since the founding of America and our history is replete with examples that belie the passages in our schoolbooks that claim that our country is a unique example of a grand melting pot. Rather, the current trend in America appears, according to a range of observers from left leaning Noam Chomsky to fairly hard right Pat Buchanan, to be an increasing fracturing along ethno-nationalist cleavages.
When Americans are incessantly exposed to US wars in the Middle East and the ranting of fellow Americans who support and seek political advantage from those wars, including the Christian Zionists and pro-Israel lobby, American society becomes vulnerable to hate speech and crimes.
While the US political establishment and American society at large has mounted a significant chorus condemning the views of Terry Jones, Daniel Pipes, Bridgette Gabriel and hundreds like them who seek political and cash profit from sowing domestic discord, much more must be done by every citizen to support real American values of tolerance and good neighborliness.
On Friday, March 4, 2011, the Zionist Middle East Forum launched another Israel backed anti-Muslim campaign to try to wedge the “Pastor Terry Jones” hate campaign against Islam and Muslims.
The current US Zionist lobby, with a reported budget of five million dollars includes the following ‘talking points’ with which the lobby intends to saturate the US public:
• “The Koran burning by Florida pastor Terry Jones has created hysteria in the Muslim world. In Afghanistan alone, some twenty people, including U.N. workers, have been killed and beheaded to screams of "Allahu Akbar!" Western leaders around the globe—including Obama and members of Congress—have unequivocally condemned Jones' actions (without bothering to point out that freedom of expression is a prized American liberty)
• Western leaders rush to profess their abhorrence at what one American did to one inanimate book, what about what Muslims are doing to living and breathing Christians around the Islamic world—to virtually no media coverage or Western condemnation:
• We should also mention the jihadist attack on a Baghdad church, killing 52 Christians; the New Year's eve Coptic church explosion, killing 21; Muslim rampages that destroyed several churches in Indonesia, Nigeria, and the Philippines; Iran's "round up" of some 70 home-worshipping Christians; and Kuwait's—a nation that owes its very existence to U.S. war sacrifices—rejection to build a church.
• Such is the surreal and increasingly irrational world we live in, where irate Muslims and groveling Westerners obsess over the destruction of one book while ignoring the destruction of many human lives; where a guaranteed and hard-earned American right—freedom of expression—receives a lot of condemnatory huffing and puffing from those charged with protecting it, while murderous and barbarous—in a word, evil—behavior is devoutly ignored.
With carefully organized and well-funded hate campaigns as illustrated above, America does, in a sense have a “Muslim problem” but it can be remedied by every American working in her or his community exposing profoundly un-American effort to sew religious and cultural discord.