I’d like respond to Mr. Lappin’s April 25th letter, “A Need to Reform.” Mr. Lappin contends that Islam is not a peaceful religion, and that by not acknowledging the terrorism inherent in Islam robs “decent American Muslims with a rationale to do nothing to fight against the jihadists…within their communities.”
Certainly, I am an advocate for peace and reform throughout the groups that I belong to—religious group, political group, and civic groups among others. Let me take Christianity, a religion that I identify with (though there are as varied denominations within Christianity as there are within Islam).
The 2000 year history of Christianity is as bloody as any other, with bloody crusades, terrifying inquisitions, and crimes of hate between individuals in the name of Christ’s love peppering our story.
I believe Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army, currently terrorizing Central Africa with numerous human rights violations and atrocities label themselves a Christian Militant Group, furthering the will of God.
These examples though, may be a bit far away—Kony is halfway around the world, the Crusades were long ago. It can be hard to relate. But Mr. Lappin contends acts of hatred or violence against Muslims in America are “virtually non-existent” as a result of American’s “remarkable forbearance” and tolerance. I might question whether these crimes are non-existent, or not reported.
Just one month ago, a Muslim woman in California was beaten to death with a tire iron in her home, with a note left reading, “Go back to your country you terrorist.” I work with a number of Muslim students who have to be careful what they say or who is around, because no matter how peaceful these individuals and their religious communities are, people not only fear them, but will threaten physical violence.
And this threat comes from decent Americans.
It is not just Muslim people who are threatened—a number of LGBT individuals across the country have been bullied, verbally, emotionally, and physically, in the name of Christ, and the individuals doing the beatings have provided Biblical justification.
While there is a debate within Christianity in terms of the sinful nature of homosexuality, I don’t know that there is a serious debate as to whether or not physical/ emotional abuse is justified in the Bible (because, despite Biblical quotes taken out of context, the hate is not justified).
And yet, Christianity isn’t labeled a religion of hate. It does not warrant people hiding their children or automatically checking for tire irons when they see me. Nor does this lack of a label keep me from recognizing that there are fringes of my religion that pervert the message, individuals who commit crimes in the name of Christ. I don’t need someone else to tell me that people in my groups do atrocious things, whether they are across the world or in my backyard.
The idea that we have to label Muslim people because they can’t evaluate themselves, that we have to create a space for them within their own religion by labeling them is absurd and condescending to those Muslim leaders, American and international, who are already working towards peace within their religion, who are well aware of the short comings of their groups, as well as the strength and the peace that does come from their religion.
If we insist on labeling the Islamic religion, and thus individuals, as inherently violent, then we take away our own rationale to understand that the religion of Islam is as violent as our own community.