April 29, 2008
American Intolerance is
Getting Dangerously Close to Persecution
When I was in
college in the early 1980’s I took an elective class dealing with racial issues taught by two theologians, one of whom
was ordained. This was the Reagan era, and I admit that the teachers were very
liberal. However, the class led to very frank discussions about views and feelings
among the small group of black, white and Puerto Rican students.
What I remember
most about the subject matter was the repudiation of the “melting pot” view of American history. Before then, I had thought that it was a good thing that immigrants to this nation often jettisoned their
cultures to become modernized and Americanized. These two men taught me that
there is true value in many cultures, we should all be proud of who we are and our ethnic heritage, and white America
shouldn’t try to foist its values on others.
Now that I’m
a Christian, I am more convinced than ever that they were right on this point.
In a New York Times story printed yesterday entitled, “Critics Cost Muslim Educator Her Dream School,” the continued fallacy of the melting pot theory is on full display. Only,
in the post-9/11 world it has a new and sinister twist.
An esteemed moderate
Arab woman who grew up in the US, named Debbie Almontaser, wanted to open a public school with Jewish, Christian and Muslim
students that taught some classes in Muslim. She understood that this type of
interaction was the only way to confront the world’s hatred and intolerance, no doubt.
This idea was not entirely unique since many New York City
public schools teach children in foreign languages in some of their non-language classes.
However, the Muslim/Arab
angle led to a concerted movement to kill the messenger if not the school itself. Indeed,
this article describes how conservative power politics, the media and the immediacy of the internet combined to create a manufactured
scandal that led to Ms. Almontaser’s forced resignation.
The school, now
open, that was designed to forge reconciliation and peace now has students who chant “terrorist” at an Arab teacher. The interim principle, who has since been replaced, didn’t even speak Arabic. Mayor Bloomberg sheepishly succumbed to the media onslaught instead of fighting for
what’s right. This whole hi-tech lynching has the Jewish lobby all over
it. If they push back this hard and get away with this in New
York, what’s it like in the Middle East?
The group formed
to oust Almontaser was called the “Stop the Madrassa” coalition. The
article states that their attacks were, “rife with a bias that would never be tolerated were it directed at other ethnic
or religious groups.”
The intolerant fear mongers behind all of this are open about their goal
to keep Muslims from increasing their influence in public life in America.
They cite as dangerous
such things as Muslims running for public office, gyms setting aside women-only hours for Muslims, banks offering Islamic
financial instruments and the offering of Halal meat (a Muslim version of kosher) at school cafeterias. According to them, their fear is a “soft revolution” that will result in London-style terrorist
bombings or the imposition of sharia law.
Funny, these people
don’t mind it when extremist Christians or Jews try to impose their religious views in the public domain. Ms. Almontaser was labeled an extremist by her opponents, and a sellout by some Muslims. This probably means she had it about right.
group's agenda precisely the type of insensitivity and hate that we accuse terrorists of having? Isn’t this the type of activity that encourages Muslims and Arabs to hate Americans? Indeed, it's un-American. The divisive, “guilt by association” tactics used by those
against this new school are particularly troubling.
They are, generally,
emblematic of US policy against Muslims that began in the hours after the
first plane hit the Twin Towers. Virtually any excuse was used to lock up Muslim men incommunicado, indefinitely and without charges. This same type of
racism has led to this country’s embrace of torture. The fear has risen
to such a level that our phones, bank accounts and other personal information can be accessed, tapped and searched by the
government without court order.
The "Stop the Madrassa" group is only following the example that our country's leaders have set.
In what could
be a wake-up call, the government has recently suffered a string of defeats in terrorism-related cases (see “Few Clear Wins in Anti-Terror Cases,” an AP story from 4/21/08). There has also been a flood of negative reports
on wrongdoing encouraged by this narrow-minded strategy (see e.g., “Ex-Gitmo Prosecutor Alleges Politics,” an AP story from 4/28/08).
How did we get
to this stage? What type of example does our intolerance provide to the rest
of the world? Is this any way to spread God’s love? This school wouldn’t have caused any harm and it may have done a great deal of good.
opponents to it would rather put their faith in man; his science and his weapons. But,
Holy Scripture says, “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit” (Zechariah
The Old Testament
also teaches us to love our neighbors and to treat “strangers” as if they were native born (Leviticus 19:18, 33-34). Jesus Christ echoes these sentiments and
expands them by giving us the “golden rule” and telling us to love our enemies, also (Luke 6:31, 27; Mathew 5:43-44).
We should all
embrace the cultural heritage of others. This is God’s will for us. Only by doing this can we encourage the intimacy and trust required to explain to
others who we are and what we believe in. The Holy Spirit will do the rest as
long as our hearts are in the right place.
Related Articles & Blogs:
"The Black Sites," this seminal New Yorker article takes an extensive look at the inhumane interrogation techniques that have challenged
"Looking at America," a New York Times year-end editorial that explains better than I what's wrong with some of our counterterrorism