To deny the proposed Muslim community center to be built only blocks away from the World Trade Center site pushes America into a dark place — a place where we persecute many for actions of a disconnected few. It is a slippery slope to reject Muslim Americans their constitutionally bestowed rights to freedom of religion. But Constitution aside, the fervor around the issue only strengthens the cause of religious extremism be it Christian, Islamic or any other religion.
Radical Islam feeds propaganda to impressionable minds across the world that have been plagued by war and occupation, and it brainwashes young minds into carrying out devastation like that on 9/11. Extremists in our own country use radical Islam as a blanket representation of Islam and inspire people to carry out actions like that of the Florida pastor Terry Jones with “Burn a Koran Day.” Is burning religious scripture the answer to being attacked by cowardly terrorism? Does a petty attack on one warrant a petty attack on another? I ask myself if I believe those who passed away on 9/11 would want their country to support actions that only encourage this cycle of human degradation.
To deny a constitutional and moral right based on fear could take our country down a slippery slope. We can see similar actions being carried out by countries across the world. Some are banning minarets and others banning veils. It seems like the whole world is afraid of Islam, but these actions based on fear cannot be sustained.Fear tends to lead to irrational behaviors, and because we are fearful we make decisions that marginalize human beings and their pursuit of living happy and faithful lives. If a nun’s habit or stained glass windows were illegal, Catholic people would be outraged no matter where this was taking place. If Iraq were to ban a Christian community center because they feared the expansion of this religion, there would be uproar as well. It is fair for the Islamic world to be outraged by Jones wanting to burn Qurans in response to 9/11 events. It is also fair for the world to scrutinize this nation for unfairly discriminating based on religion, supposedly one of the first protected rights of our Constitution.
Where do we as a collective draw the line? Do we allow the extremists in our own country to push the American mainstream into a radical and unsustainable position? I view this as a critical time of action in our country. If the decent and patriotic people of this nation don’t stand up against domestic radical demonization of Americans who happen to practice the Islam, every person who enjoys the diverse cultural aspects of our society will soon have something to fear.
Throughout history we have had irrational fears. Fears of the minority led to Jim Crow laws in this country; it led to Japanese American internment during World War II. And those are only two of many examples where the radical fears of this country forced us into dark times. As a nation that has a history of mistakes, we should learn from at least one to not make a mistake that could lead to dire consequences not only across the world — with more than 1 billion faithful Muslims — but also a mistake that could affect the millions of Muslim Americans here in this country.
Edward Wycliff is a senior politics major. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.