Sunday, August 8, 2010

Keeping anti-Islamic irrationalism in check

It’s not uncommon in my neighborhood to see a woman draped in black, from head to toe, with all but her eyes revealed. My aunt jokingly dubbed such women “spooky Muslims,” because in some cases they do, in fact, appear to be dark apparitions, floating – sometimes wobbling – down the street, usually with a child in tow, sometimes a few feet behind a man. And he may have on flood pants under a dress-length tunic, with a scraggly beard and a kufi on his head.

Her comment may seem insensitive until you consider that my aunt is a faithful, practicing Muslim, one who has raised her children in the faith. In fact, in the United States, blacks make up about a third of the nation’s Muslims by conservative estimates – and scores of females in that mix do not accept the spooky garb as uniform.

One person’s Islam is driven by sincere belief in instruction from God; another’s, by man’s sincere lust for power. Too often, the street-level interpretation seems to be more about propelling a man to a position of authority – understandable given the damaged psyches of some who adopt it after a prison bid or some other quest for grounding – than about God and peace in the world. I have yet to find in the Qu’aran a misery test for women to prove faithfulness. Yet, that often seems to be the order of the day among the spooky set. Especially given this sweltering heat.

And if black people still cast wary eyes toward loved ones in the faith, what’s to be expected of the majority of the country whose introduction consisted largely of deranged men claiming Allah while bent on a path of destruction one sunny September day?

It’s a question that has been swirling around my mind since the latest outbreak of anti-Islam fever has broken out nationwide, sparked by the concept of building a mosque and Islamic gathering center near the site of the former World Trade Center, hallowed ground in the United States since the 9/11 terrorist attacks of 2001.
There were people of all colors, ethnicities, and faiths murdered that day – including Muslims. Those facts often are glossed over in the anti-Islam hysteria, one fanned, sadly, by opportunists within the GOP. Some perspective, though.

It’s doubtful many would howl about placing a Mennonite Church near the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum, where the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was felled. Yet that faith spawned a pastor, Robert G. Millar, who went left and began espousing unadulterated hatred and whose doctrine took disciple Timothy McVeigh to new heights of infamy.

Likewise, eyebrows would arch at the thought of shuttering celebrations of Mass at any of the 22 Roman Catholic parishes in Birmingham just because that faith was the grounding for the Rev. Donald Spitz. He’s the brain trust and spiritual guide of the Army of God, whose anti-abortion tear in that town, and across the country, has claimed the lives of medical professionals. Spitz also has inspired followers like Eric Robert Rudolph, whose crimes include bombing the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.

No one blamed these religions for these twisted interpretations. Yet, scores stand ready to scorn all of Islam and its adherents due to the inflamed madness of a few.

“I do believe everybody has a right to freedom of religion,” Diana Sarafin told The New York Times. “But Islam is not about a religion. It’s a political government, and it’s 100 percent against our Constitution.”

Uh, no. That’s not what the Qu’aran is about, any more than a demand for spooky Muslims. Or any more than the Torah or the Bible.

Part of America’s irrational fear of “Islamo-terrorism” comes from the blatant ignorance about what Islam is – and isn’t. In that vein, a center dedicated to education and understanding – what has been proposed for the Cordoba House at 45-47 Park Place – is an apt prescription.

Muslims – simply meaning one who submits to God in Arabic – have as many different cultural codes they follow as part of their faith as do any Christian. What usually remains consistent is that peace is premier in Islam, much like most world religions. How one manages to achieve that tends to be the area of consternation, and the ground ripest for pollution. No one faith has cornered the market on sinners or saints – something we’d all do well to remember.

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