September 10, 2011
Sister-in-law: Discrimination Against Muslims is Un-American
By Nancy Meyer – JournalStar.com
What have we as a nation learned about religious tolerance in the 10 years since 9/11?
That Muslims of all kinds are now the enemy of everything that is American? Or that a radical international hate group usurped the Muslim religion as an excuse to justify terrorism?
I am a Nebraskan who lost a sister-in-law on Flight 93 in Pennsylvania on Sept. 11th, 2001. And I sincerely hope that we as Americans have learned that 9/11 was the latter.
But I fear it has not been so.
Ten years later, Muslim-Americans are routinely hated, feared and discriminated against across our country. Their houses of worship are protested and attacked, their holy books are burned in public and their children are harassed in our schools. Several Americans have been physically assaulted and even killed just for looking like they could be Muslims.
A popular way to criticize our current president is to call him a Muslim, as if that makes him a bad person. I remember when I, as a Catholic child in the early ’60s, could not understand why people criticized John F. Kennedy for being Catholic. I was taught in school that religious discrimination was not only wrong, it was un-American.
American Muslims now have to defend themselves against the broad stereotypes that have become embedded in our collective psyche since 9/11. Yet how can that be?
Doesn’t anyone remember these words of President George W Bush:
“We are not at war with Islam, which most Americans respect as a religion of peace.” — Sept. 16, 2001
“The enemy of America is not our many Muslim friends. It is not our many Arab friends.” — Sept. 20, 2001
“There are thousands of Muslims who proudly call themselves Americans, and they know what I know — that the Muslim faith is based upon peace and love and compassion.” — Sept. 28, 2001
“Islam is a vibrant faith. Millions of our fellow citizens are Muslim. We respect the faith. We honor its traditions. Our enemy does not. Our enemy doesn’t follow the great traditions of Islam. They’ve hijacked a great religion.” — Oct. 11, 2002
“Islam, as practiced by the vast majority of people, is a peaceful religion, a religion that respects others. Ours is a country based upon tolerance, and we welcome people of all faiths in America.” — Nov. 13, 2002
“America treasures the relationship we have with our many Muslim friends, and we respect the vibrant faith of Islam which inspires countless individuals to lead lives of honesty, integrity, and morality.” — Dec. 5, 2002
Bush’s words reflect the basic American values of freedom of religion, freedom of speech and opposition to all forms of bigotry and racism. We would do well to remember them.
Moreover, Bush recognized that the way we treat our fellow Americans who follow the Muslim faith has an impact on how Americans are viewed throughout the world. If we really believe that all Muslims are dangerous and violent, why in the world would we want to give them a reason to retaliate against Americans here and abroad?
American Muslims are just that; members of our American family. Singling them out for scrutiny is not only un-American, it is pathetically poor diplomacy. And it is shameful.
We cannot continue to condemn an entire religion based on the actions of 19 deluded young men. Our loved ones were killed by extremists who chose to overlook the fact that their victims were innocent civilians. Can we do the same thing to others and still call ourselves Christians?
The tendency in our culture to hate and vilify “the other” is a stain on our history. America should be a champion of civil and human rights and set an example for the rest of the world. What we condemn in others we should not do ourselves.
It comes down to what kind of a nation we want to be. George W. Bush wanted us to be better than to stoop to bigotry based on the events of Sept. 11, 2001.
On this 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, let’s heed the advice of George W. Bush, a noted Christian, and practice tolerance for American Muslims to showcase the strength of our nation through unity:
“America rejects bigotry. We reject every act of hatred against people of Arab background or Muslim faith. America values and welcomes peaceful people of all faiths — Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu and many others. Every faith is practiced and protected here, because we are one country. Every immigrant can be fully and equally American because we’re one country. Race and color should not divide us, because America is one country.” — George W Bush, April 30, 2002
Nancy Meyer of Cedar Bluffs is the sister-in-law of Flight 93 victim Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas and a member of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows.