Friday, November 26, 2010

Islamophobia

Since I’m sure some people who were involved in the conversation will sooner or later read this, I need to make a quick disclaimer up front: This blog post is inspired by, but should not be consider a direct response to, a discussion that occurred on Facebook. Since I have been told that I “missed the whole point” in that conversation, I won’t claim that I’m directly addressing any points that were made. I will not offer any theories as to what this person feels was the actual “point,” since I do not know them in real life, and never spoke with them before this conversation.

This post deals more with a general concern that I have about things I’ve been hearing in the world and in the news, lately. The discussion merely inspired me to actually put my thoughts into words. So here goes.

The way I understand it, the concern is as follows:
1. Muslim religion and law are irrevocably intertwined.
2. Muslim law allows for such things as killing your daughter for dating a non-Muslim.
3. Once they gain a "foothold" in America, they will invoke freedom of religion as a means to get away with killing their children and doing other unsavory and illegal things to non-Muslims.

I can understand where this fear is coming from, but this kind of fear-mongering is exactly what is setting our country on a road to theocracy. (Which, incidentally, is exactly what we fear, isn't it? Or is it just that people fear that another religion will "take over" before theirs has a chance to?) No one should feel ashamed of being afraid. Fear is just a part of being mortal. Every creature feels fear of something. But part of what makes us human is our ability to curb our fight-or-flight instinct, and instead take a deep breath, look at the situation for what it is, and take action that will benefit society as a whole in the long run, instead of temporarily relieving our fear for the moment.

Frankly, I feel that the fear of Islam “taking over” America is a ridiculous fear, so long as people don’t give into that fear. As I’m sure we’ve all heard time and again, “There is nothing to fear, but fear itself.”

If you boil down all our laws to one simple statement, it is that we are free to do anything we please, so long as what we please does not infringe upon another person's freedom. This is why you can't legally decide that, in order to pursue happiness, you are going to knock over a bank to finance your dream of owning a pie store. That would involve infringing upon the rights of the people who worked hard to earn that money, and are in the process of pursuing their own happiness. (I won’t get into how I feel corporations and big business are undermining this basic concept from the inside. Right now, we’re just talking about how it applies to the individual, in an ideal world.)

As long as we as a people can keep this concept of “freedom” in mind as the basis for lawmaking and prosecuting criminals, it becomes easy to "draw the line", so to speak. That is, it becomes easy to say, “You can worship any way you want, as long as what you want doesn’t interfere with someone else’s ability to worship or not worship as they choose.” People who belong to a religion with a strongly evangelistic aspect (such as fundamental Christians) don't always like this, because it means they can't force other people, including their children, to live by their moral code. But all I can say to that is "tough titty." That's the basis upon which our highly successful country has been founded, and I for one think it works pretty darn well, until people lose sight of their principles in fear or selfishness.

It isn't until Americans willingly give up their freedoms (or decide en masse to infringe upon the freedoms of a minority group) that real issues arise. And historically, Americans usually only give up their freedoms, or infringe upon the freedoms of others, out of fear. That is why this kind of fear-mongering particularly offends me. The idea that a different standard of government could gain a "foothold" in America is completely ridiculous, until someone start playing upon the fears of fellow Americans in an attempt to soothe their own fears, at which point it almost becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. We become "them" in an attempt to stop "them." Look at Iraq as an example. Call it a “preemptive strike” all you want, but the fact is that we attacked them because they weren’t living by our moral code. Which is exactly what we fear they will do to us. Come on, people. We’re better than that. We’re Americans.

No matter what your personal beliefs are, the moment that we as a country step off of the bedrock upon which our freedoms are based, is the moment that we become no better than terrorists. Fear should never be a basis for disregarding the principles upon which our country was founded. Have we Americans become so soft and unused to having to fight to defend our freedoms, that we will abandon our principles the moment someone threatens us with violence? I wish I could say no, but the current direction the country is headed worries me.

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