Friday, January 25, 2019

Plot to destroy upstate Mosque shows islamophobia is alive and well

Because of the “see something, say something” diligence of students at Greece Odyssey Academy in Monroe County a dastardly plot was uncovered by Greece Police. They discovered that 4 young men, ages 16 to 20, were planning to attack a Muslim community in Delaware County. During the investigation, police found that the men were deadly serious and in possession of 3 homemade explosive devices and 23 firearms.

The fact that this level of hate, which nearly manifested itself in violence, could be found in Greece – which not long ago was chosen as one of the safest places in America – proves that hate can be found anywhere. Anywhere.
Need further proof of that? Just take a cursory glance of Facebook and Twitter; how many articles, posts, comments, and memes have you seen identifying Islam as a religion of hate or calling for the elimination – and even execution – of Muslims? Sure, a majority of Americans are understanding of other faiths, but the haters are out there, and in fairly good numbers.

And people wonder where those deranged young men got their worldviews. They’re only mirroring the behavior of the adults they look up to.

All of those Islamophobes tend to paint the religion with a wide brush-stroke that makes all Muslims seem evil. Rather than attributing the work of ISIS and other militant groups --- which are incredibly small in numbers but large in impact – to a very small minority of morally-bankrupt practitioners of Islam, it’s popular to blame them all.

While many terrorists may claim to be Muslims, almost all Muslims are not terrorists. Most Muslims are like most Christians – inherently good people, believing in a peace, who try to live up to standards of morality amidst their own personal flaws. In short, they are humans as you and I are trying to be perfect in an imperfect world.

An Orleans County couple whom I admire are devout Muslims. Their love of Man far rivals that which I have seen from most Christians. They devote countless hours and dollars to improving the lot of life for the impoverished in that deeply-poor county as well as directly helping children from oppressed nations throughout the world. Their sacrifices and commitments are truly something special.

Their peers in faith are equally adept at practicing charity. One study found that Muslims were the most generous of all religious groups, contributing 38% more than Jews, 84% more than Protestants, more than twice what Catholics do, and more than 3 times what atheists give.

Those statistics magnificently show that Islam is a religion of peace, of love, of hope.

Many non-Muslims choose to believe otherwise, implying that terror organizations represent the mainstream of the religion and that it is a deadly, vindictive faith. While having never picked up the Quaran, they are quick to spout random quotes from Muhammad that say Islam must convert all non-believers and tax and/or kill those who don’t convert.

If other religions practiced such selectivity and total lack of historical context, Christians would be looked as murderous war mongers, too. After all, the God of the Old Testament had the Israelites wipe out and destroy Jericho, Heshbon, Bahsan and numerous other places, purposely killing women and children while doing so because non-believers and those associated with them needed punishment. That’s a heavy body count, one that is overlooked today due to the more just people and kinder God of the New Testament.

It’s silly to classify Christianity as evil and violent because of those bloodbaths (and those done in its name in the days after the Bible), just as it is to do the same to all of Islam. Muslim-hating Christians need to look in the mirror – and read their own doctrines – before pointing an accusatory finger at other religions. What did Jesus say about the first stone?

A lack of understanding and compassion, which leads down the path of hate, is no way to treat your fellow man, no matter what religion he practices.  

That hate almost led to the death of what could have been dozens of peaceful Muslims – men, women, and children -- right here in our own home state. While it would have been the men who pulled the trigger being guilty, the practitioners of Islamophobia would have had blood on their hands, too, because it was their spirited verbal and written attacks which inspired the impressionable young men to commit their bloodbath. 

This should serve as a wake-up call. Islamophobia is an ugly disease and one that unlike disdain for skin color or sexual orientation is often left unchecked. It’s allowed to be expressed in the open and very few stand up against it. We can’t let that happen anymore, anywhere. Bring an end to the hate, because it can become a deadly disease.

From the 28 January 2019 Greater Niagara Newspapers and Batavia Daily News

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