Anti-Muslim sentiment has been on the increase in the U.S. according to a poll taken several months ago. However, this has not been due to an increase in terrorist activity by American Muslims. To the contrary, in a study made public last month conducted by Duke University and the University of North Carolina it found that the number of American Muslims suspected or confirmed to be associated with terror operations significantly decreased in 2010. The reality of the situation and the perceptions held by many people are deeply at odds.
The reasons for this disconnect are not hard to find. Well known public figures have stoked the fires of fear. Pundit Glenn Beck has unjustifiably claimed that 10% of Muslim are terrorists. Bill O’Reilly has compared the Koran to Hitler’s Mein Kampf, which he later disingenuously denied doing. The House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Rep. Peter King, like Beck, has alleged that over 80% of Muslim leadership in America is extremist, again without evidence to backup the allegation. He, as well as other politicians and pundits, have insisted that Muslims refuse to cooperate with law enforcement involved in terror cases.
The facts don’t support the accusations. Attorney General Eric Holder has directly contradicted King’s claims. The recent above-mentioned study found no evidence of Muslim non-cooperation. Indeed, the single largest source of tips alerting authorities to terror suspects has been the American Muslim community. More than a third of the terrorist plots that have been thwarted were done so with the help of Muslims. Leroy Baca, the sheriff of Los Angeles County, has repeatedly maintained that in terrorism investigations American Muslims have offered critical help.
But none of this has stopped the broad and sweeping incendiary claims against the American Muslim community. It is not merely “political correctness” that has caused voices of concern to be raised about the hearings instigated by Rep. King, entitled “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community’s Response.” In the present atmosphere of suspicion that has been fostered by Islamaphobic forces, there is a very real danger that the hearings may become a forum from which to incite ever more bigotry. This will certainly be the case if the hearings follow Rep. King’s lead in suggesting that the extremists are representative of average Muslims leaders in America.
None of this is to say that there is no legitimate concern about radical Muslims in the U.S. or that nothing should be done to address the problem. But any suggestion that these extremists are more than a small minority among the Muslim community in America is baseless and irresponsible. Yet given the growing number of anti-Muslim acts of destruction and intimidating demonstrations at mosques and anti-Shariah law legislation – though no one has even proposed introducing Shariah law anywhere in the U.S. – there are apparently a considerable number of people who are willing to identify American Muslims as a whole with the radical and violence-prone few. They are far too eager to attack what they imagine is a Muslim threat. In this context Rep. King’s hearings have significant destructive potential so far as the rights of the Muslim community is concerned.
What should those of us who claim to be followers of Jesus do? Some Christian self-examination wouldn’t hurt. Frankly, there are far many more radical fundamentalist American Christians who want to take over this country and impose their version of God’s law on everyone else than there are radical Muslims who want to do something similar. We need to be watchful. At the same time, we need to remember that our neighbors whom we have been called by Christ to love include Muslims. We are to treat them as we ourselves want to be treated (Luke 6:31). Even if we find ourselves inclined view them as “other,” scripture reminds us to “show hospitality to strangers,” realizing we might find in them an angelic presence (Hebrews 13:2). As Jesus was kind and uncondemning toward the Samaritans, so we need to treat Muslims with respect and receptivity. Fear and suspicion must not be allowed to get the upper hand. Even as there are voices in our country being raised to spread misunderstanding, it is important that we raise our voices to foster understanding and to support positive relations among people of differing faiths.
With these things in mind, Disciples Peace Fellowship submitted to the General Board the resolution below that will be presented to the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) –with minor revisions- this coming July in Nashville.
A Resolution Addressing
Anti-Muslim Action in America
Whereas: We have been called to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9) and we are to “pursue peace with everyone” (Hebrews 12:14).
Whereas: All people are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26) and are loved by God (John 3:16) and are rightfully loved by us as our neighbors (Matthew 22:36-40).
Whereas: Scripture calls us to “show hospitality to strangers” (Hebrews 13:2) and to welcome others even as we have been welcomed by God.
Whereas: Over 6 million Muslims live peacefully in the United States and contribute in positive ways to society.
Whereas: The number of Americans who hold “unfavorable opinions” about Islam is the highest level since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, according to a Washington Post – ABC poll released in September 2010.
Whereas: The protest of the proposed Muslim community Center in New York City near the site of the 9/11 terrorist attacks –over which there are legitimate differences of opinion- was often expressed in intensely anti-Muslim terms.
Whereas: Acts against mosques such as graffiti, arson and property damage have occurred during the past year.*
And Whereas: The 2005 General Assembly resolution no. 0519 “Encouraging Interfaith Engagement” states, “[W]e see interreligious relationships as one of God’s special callings in our time.”
Therefore, Be It Resolved That: The General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) go on record deploring the anti-Muslim speech and activity that many Muslim-Americans have found threatening and call upon the church to promote respect and civility toward our Muslim neighbors.
Be It Further Resolved That: In addition to the work done by the General Church on Muslim-Christian relations, this Assembly urges Regional Ministers to encourage interfaith dialogue and action on both the Regional and local / congregational levels so that mutual regard and understanding between Muslims and Christians will be deepened.
Jacksonville, FL , May 2010: Vandals firebombed the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida. Sources: “www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2010/05/12/Mosque-in-Jacksonville-Fla-firebombed/UPI-85931273693653/“:www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2010/05/12/Mosque-in-Jacksonville-Fla-firebombed/UPI-85931273693653/
Phoenix, AZ, August 2010: Vandals threw paint on the floor, shot out windows, and wrote anti-Muslim slurs on the walls of a local mosque.
Bridgeport, CT, August 2010: Picketers targeted a mosque during Ramadan and shouted “murderers” and “Jesus hates Muslims” at worshippers, including children. Sources: “www.ctpost.com/news/article/Angry-protesters-descend-on-mosque-606515.php”:www.ctpost.com/news/article/Angry-protesters-descend-on-mosque-606515.php
Detroit, MI, May 2010: Vandals damaged a local mosque twice in one week. Sources: “www.ww4report.com/node/8625”:www.ww4report.com/node/8625
Hudson, NY, September 2010: Three men spray-painted an anti-Muslim epithet on the back wall of a Sources: “http://online.wsj.com/article/APebf11f7773e04470bfe7007e7b474aa1.html”:http://online.wsj.com/article/APebf11f7773e04470bfe7007e7b474aa1.html
Murfreesboro, May 2010: Opponents of a planned mosque have vandalized the mosque site, including setting fire to construction vehicles. Sources: http://abcnews.go.com/WN/murfreesboro-tennessee-mosque-plan-draws-criticism-residents/story?id=10956381
San Antonio, TX, September 2010: A mosque was vandalized with spray-paint and worshippers’ cars were targeted with graffiti and anti-Muslim messages. Sources: “http://www.kens5.com/news/Local-Mosque-Vandalized-102283944.html”:http://www.kens5.com/news/Local-Mosque-Vandalized-102283944.html
Wilson, May 2010: A new mosque was vandalized shortly after it opened following a long anti-Mosque campaign conducted by local residents. Sources: www.fox6now.com/news/witi-100505-sheboygan-muslims,0,4795698.story