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The Problem Is Radical Religion

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Over recent months the conservative media has bombarded the nation with a very disturbing and dangerous message: Islam is an evil religion and all of its adherents are potential terrorists. 

This unfortunate meme has been repeated ad nauseam via the GOP propaganda network (Fox News) and right-wing blogosphere. 

The “logic” follows: 

1) The 9-11 attackers were Muslim.
2) The attackers use Islamic scripture to justify their actions.
3) Quotes from the Koran (taken out of context) show that Islam is an evil, intolerant religion.
4) Therefore, all Muslims are a threat to America and practice of their religion should be stopped at all costs. 

This meme is being driven mostly by the fringe and Tea Party candidates, but prominent Republican politicians do absolutely nothing to dispel this notion — it is, after all a useful handle to keep their uneducated masses in line and voting for the conservative candidates. 

This belief is contingent on the idea that America is a Christian nation, an idea that has increasingly been sold through recent revisionist histories promoted by the likes of Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity. 

If the people who deeply believe this nonsense had the slightest ounce of rationality, they would apply the above logical process to the case of the self-described “Christian counterpart of Osama Bin-Laden” who is being carefully ignored by the national media.  

From the Charlotte Observer: 

A Concord man was charged with describing how to make explosives, in an effort to bomb an abortion clinic, after FBI agents found instructions on the man’s Facebook page and caught him in a sting, officials said Thursday.
Justin Carl Moose, 26, is a self-described “extremist, radical” and the “Christian counterpart of Osama bin Laden,” according to an affidavit filed by FBI agents. Agents arrested Moose, who lives in a northwest Concord neighborhood, on Tuesday. 

During the sting, an informant contacted Moose, who happily walked him through making a bomb step by step. 

Soooo. 

1) The attackers of Americans at Oklahoma City, Olympic Park in Atlanta, and this planned attack on a North Carolina Planned Parenthood clinic are Christians.
2) The attackers use Christian scripture to justify their actions.
3) Quotes from the Bible (taken out of context) show Christianity to be an evil, intolerant religion.
4) Therefore, all Christians are a threat to America and practice of their religion should be stopped at all costs. 

This is, of course, nonsense. The true villain is the practice of radical religion of all stripes. 

Most religions have a record of violence and atrocity stretching back to distant prehistory. Christians, Jews, Muslims, Mormons, etc. have done abominable things in the name of their respective faiths — including acts of terrorism. 

To be clear, these acts have been perpetrated by both fringe members and at the instruction of religious heirarchy in all of these faith traditions. 

But the Park51 protesters and the people who support the burning of Korans won’t get this. They are beyond the reach of reason, and their media puppet masters want to keep them that way. 

In defense of this inanity, the perpetually indignant cast of the unfunny joke that is Fox News argues that the burning of the Koran is exactly comparable to building the Islamic Center at the site of the somehow sacred abandoned Burlington Coat factory. 

Bullshit. 

Although it is true that the religiously driven whack job in Florida has every right to burn Korans (barring any safety ordinance to the contrary), it is not in any way the same thing as attempting to build a center to promote moderation in the Islamic community. 

One is a calculated provocative act. 

The other is the free, peaceful, non-provocative practice of a religion. 

Despite the smear campaign to depict the Imam as a radical who supports Hamas, and the almost hilarious arguments flimsily constructed to assert that the center is designed to commemorate a Muslim victory on 9/11, there are many reasons to discard the arguments that this economically depressed area (which is actually blocks from the Ground Zero site) is sacred. 

For one, the Christian Science Monitor found that the immediate area is filled with abandoned buildings, strip clubs and sex shops.  

For another, none of the protesters seem to mind that Christian bigot Bill Keller plans to open his radical fundamentalist church near the site. Keller has made it clear that he was on board with the right-wing message, but took it a little further: 

Keller says he is raising funds to create a 9/11 Christian center near what he calls the “victory mosque.” Sparing few others the rod, he also leveled equal condemnation toward Hindus, pro-choice supporters and even Mormons – including Fox News’ Glenn Beck. 

Just for some background, Salon.com reports: 

Keller regularly assails Muslims as pedophiles and attacks Mormons and gay people. But his church has drawn no objections from opponents of the mosque who have consistently argued that the neighborhood around ground zero is sacred ground. Keller also has a history of trying to profit off of political controversies; last year, for example, he hosted a Birther infomercial. 

As I posted earlier, the constant conflation of Islam with terrorism has real world consequences, both domestically and internationally. 

It is counter-productive to the fight against actual terrorists, and dangerous to freedom-loving Americans who happen to be Muslims — or look Middle Eastern. 

Andrew Sullivan , writing about the Moose case at the Daily Dish sums it up: 

No, the GOP elites have not done this explicitly; but they have allowed these connections to be drawn in the minds of many of their followers, and in a time of economic depression, and easy Internet demagoguery, this simply must not stand. We need more Republicans like Colin Powell to stand up for the New York mosque and for American Muslims, whose admirable conduct these past nine years has been in stark contrast to much of the extremism in Europe. We need Republican leaders aggressively to counter these myths about the president, to say what McCain was forced to say in the campaign. We also desperately need them to reiterate that being a Muslim and being an American is no contradiction and no conflict; and that our war is absolutely not with Islam, but with those who pervert it and take it to violent extremes. I reiterate my request that former president Bush come out on this, to pierce the noise on the far right and defuse it as much as possible. 

I’m not as forgiving as Sullivan. quite simply, both movement conservatives and GOP leadership in the House and Senate are negligent for taking no action to correct this dangerous misconception — if they aren’t actively promoting it. 

Waiting for the Republican leadership to take the lead in curtailing the excesses of their useful puppets isn’t a useful expenditure of time. 

Obama has come out recently and started to stress the distinction between American Muslims and terrorists. It’s a message that both Americans and members of the world community need to hear. 

Of all the principles outlined in the Constitution, arguably the most important is embodied by the 1st Amendment: 

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. 

The current anti-Muslim cloud that hovers over America represents a collision of values protected by the Constitution. It can only be dispelled through reason and an understanding of what the First Amendment represents. 

The founders were well aware of the tyranny of a state-run religion, and the problems associated with the clash of different religious ideas. That’s why America is NOT a Christian nation. It is a nation that neither respects or prohibits the free exercise of ANY religion (within the bounds of secular law). 

A good part of the reason for the success of the American democratic experiment is the moderating influence of the Constitution on religious extremism. 

The war we are facing is against the fringe elements of all religions — the fundamentalists who are unwilling to compromise, and are willing to commit violence to remake the world in their chosen image. 

In this fight, it is important to recognize that what the anti-Islamists are calling for is a rejection of American values and an embrace of the values of an extreme theocracy. 

This acceptance of unpatriotic values is clear in one of the most ridiculous arguments pushed by the Park51 opponents: there should be no mosque in lower Manhattan until Saudi Arabia allows Christian churches there. 

The ever-amusing Newt Gingrich posted on his “Renewing American Leadership” website on July 21: 

Meanwhile, there are no churches or synagogues in all of Saudi Arabia. In fact no Christian or Jew can even enter Mecca. 

Newt, let me explain it to you. We’re Americans. We are not Saudi Arabia. We do not aspire to become a theocracy. We don’t like those. As an alleged historian, you might remember those guys a few hundred years ago wrote this document (called the Constitution) that dealt with this. 

The anti-Islamists are not only fighting a religion they don’t like, they are trampling on the ideals that are a major part of the foundation of America. To fight against our perceived enemies, they argue, we must discard our values and adopt theirs. Especially those we find abhorrent. 

They are wrong about who the enemy is, and about American values. 

Decent Americans understand this. 

The others should be marginalized and ignored. 

-Chris 

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September 12, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , ,

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