Too many Americans indulge in hatred hors d’oeurves. These prejudices come in diverse forms, sex, gender, class, race, ability, geographic region, political affiliation, socioeconomic status, size, sexual orientation, nationality and religion.
There are nearly as many isms as there are people who loathe others for their lifestyles.
In a country supposedly founded on religious freedoms and other not-quite-actualized ideals, religious intolerance and ignorance spread with peanut butter precision.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, the United States’ fear of Islam, the Middle East and people who might look, “smell” or live like they are remotely affiliated with any or all has grown to epic proportions.
Today’s bigots believe in Quran burning, torching mosques and harassing Arabs in airports.
Who remembers the controversy surrounding the mosque on private property near Ground Zero?
By believing that a mosque did not belong near an area rendered historic because of religious extremists, people espoused the belief that Islam is wrong, not the individual terrorists.
How would the mostly Christian United States respond to similar sentiments because of Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh’s Christian upbringing?
With about three-quarters of the US population identifying as Christians, according to www.christianpost.com, it appears that little opposition to building churches would be presented in similar scenarios.
To assume that every Muslim is a “terrorist” is akin to assuming that every Christian is a sexual deviant (per Eddie Long-esque encounters and Catholic church molestation histories).
“Islam” means peace and is rooted in the preservation of God’s pleasure, yet beliefs about it have been mired by misinterpretation of the world’s real bad guys and gals.
It’s safe to assume that religions are like families, each including some questionable representatives (crazies) who should not be the group’s face or spokespeople.
I am not a Muslim, although I do not eat pork, fancy myself conscious and my name translates to “faith” or “by faith” in Swahili and Arabic.
If anything, the Arabic origins of my first name and the slavish implications of my last name highlight the complexity of my family and serve as conversation pieces for diverse groups.
It also raises flags to some.
I experienced inquisitive looks and the side-eye while reading Malcolm X’s autobiography in high school.
That look occasionally becomes more colorful if I rattle off the also African and Arabic first and middle names of my brothers.
Although an inaccurate assessment, I am not offended to occasionally conjure Islamic ideas in others.
Muslims revolt. They dismantle regimes.
They tweet revolutions and martyr common people.
Iranian political martyr Neda Agha-Soltan is one of my sheroes.
If anything, the “othering” climate that thrives in the United States speaks to the desire of masses to fit in, while isolating and marginalizing (oppressing) groups who live differently.
This is a problematic cultural norm in general, but is especially problematic within groups of subjugated people.
Let’s not get renewed on Sunday and “brand-new” (standoffish) to other groups after hanging up church clothes.
I’m still working on my walk with a Higher Power and hoping to plant azaleas along the way.
I am not implying that any spiritual path is superior to an alternate direction, nor am I suggesting that God gave us Scantron lives and requested that we bubble a certain deity or religion.
I am requesting that a country that prides itself on open-mindedness actually open its mind to different lifestyles, or at least agree to disagree.
Religion, spirituality and faith are profoundly personal.
We need acceptance of other belief systems, even if we do not subscribe to them.
A little Google action can’t hurt either.
In so doing, we might meet a favorable eternity, if you believe in that sort of thing.