Life Through the Lens of Faith
American Intolerance is Getting Dangerously Close to Persecution
Home | Postings Inspired by the Holy Spirit | Archives | Good News | Essays | Faith & the Environment | Urban Farming Vision | Bible Study Tips | My Years in Purgatory | About Me


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.


Isn’t this 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.


The intolerant 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 4:6).


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 our values


  • "Looking at America," a New York Times year-end editorial that explains better than I what's wrong with some of our counterterrorism policies



Enter supporting content here