Saturday, August 14, 2010

Religious Bigotry in America is Alive and Well

It is disconcerting, although not surprising at all, that a very significant majority of Americans oppose the construction of an Islamic place of worship two blocks from where the World Trade Center (aka Ground Zero) stood.

That this attitude flies in the face of the revolutionary ideas that created this country, that attracted immigrants to this country, and that makes this country the best country on Earth is what is most disconcerting to me.

All of this is based on a poll released on August 11 by CNN.

The poll question was posed in this way:

“As you may know, a group of Muslims in the U.S. plan to build a mosque two blocks from the site in New York City where the World Trade Center used to stand. Do you favor or oppose this plan?”
The question was asked of 1,009 adult Americans, 935 of them being registered voters, between August 6th and August 10th.

Totals: 68% Opposed, 29% Favor

Among Conservatives: 87% Oppose 12% Favor
Among Liberals: 45% Oppose 51% Favor

Over 50 Years of age: 76% Oppose 21% Favor
Under 50 Years of age: 61% Oppose 35% Favor

President Obama, finding himself in a stark minority, said this at a White House dinner commemorating the beginning of Ramadan, Islam’s month-long fasting that makes Lent look like a piker:
“As a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country, That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable.”
More to the point, and I think the president also made this observation, Americans have systematically exerted religious bias on one religious minority after another over the years, despite the fact that religious freedom is one of the main principles that underlies the basic freedoms that America offers. As each religious group attained “legitimacy” they in turn set themselves against the next unpopular religion to appear on our shores.

As a noncombatant in this field, I can say that I understand why this is such a hot button issue among Americans. The wounds are still not completely healed, apparently.

That is a reason, but it is not an excuse.

There is a reason for public hysteria, but there is never an excuse for it.

Is there anyone out there that still thinks that the forced internment of 110,000 American citizens of Japanese descent during World War II was good and proper? At the time it was deemed necessary and even deserved. People like them had, after all, launched a sneak attack that killed over two thousand soldiers and sailors. Exactly analogous to the 19 Muslim extremists and their sneak attack on 9-11.

Public hysteria allowed “Japanese Relocation” to happen. And that is something that Americans can and will continue to look back on in shame.

The 14th Amendment rights of thousands of American citizens of Japanese descent were trampled on because of some sort of ill-conceived guilt by association, and not just a little racism. Just so, the 1st Amendment rights of Muslims are being trampled on in the very same manner.

I guess the silver lining in this dark cloud that hangs over America is that the issue is opposition to construction of a mosque. At least we’re not restringing the barbed wire fences of Manzanar.

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