In so many ways, one of the biggest civil rights issues of our day is the way we treat Muslims in our country.
Many Muslim traditions seem a bit strange to many of us, and thus it is natural to be somewhat fearful. But as I noted in a 2011 column, in more than half of the dialects of the world's languages there is no distinction between the word for "stranger" and the word for "enemy." As a result, in those places anyone who is a stranger is automatically an enemy. Imagine the violence, misery and lost opportunities that have resulted from this short-sighted approach.
Throughout our history we have fallen into the trap of stereotyping groups of immigrants in our country, such as labeling Irish as drunks, Italians as mafia and Chinese as unscrupulous. And in one of our worst national civil rights blunders, we looked on the Japanese as potential spies and interned them in camps. So today it is the Muslims among us who are misguidedly being stereotyped as being terrorists or terrorist sympathizers.
As an example, one of my best friends is Iranian (actually they call themselves Persian to distance themselves from
We are all Americans and should act accordingly, with compassion and tolerance. All people should be treated, and held accountable, as individuals and not as members of a group. In fact, typecasting is simply an excuse to be intellectually and morally lazy.
As a further thought, you may recall that at the beginning of
It is long past time that we stop being fearful of or even concerned by another person's religious faith. Many people were worried when
My perception is that during the
The same should be true for Muslims. In fact, we should all look forward to the day when no one votes against — or in favor of — any candidates simply because of their race, gender, national origin or religious faith. Those are true American values!
And for those people who have a special concern that Muslims are a special case because of various cited passages in the Koran, let us remember that for centuries many devout Christians around the world cited passages in the Old Testament of the Bible to support violence against and enslaving of people of "inferior races." But that fact does not provide a justification to be generally fearful or skeptical of Christians — then or now.
So what are the causes of the extremist actions of some Muslims around the world? They are the same now as they were throughout history: poverty, ignorance and manipulation of other people by some sociopaths and zealots. Let us never forget that those same factors brought into power tyrants like Hitler, Stalin and
The antidotes to these conditions, in addition to having the best intelligence and military readiness that our government can provide, are free trade, the free-flow of people and ideas, and a genuine appreciation of other cultures. Throughout history it has been shown that peace is born of familiarity with and acceptance of other cultures, and further that people do not tend to shoot their trading partners.
Finally, we must understand that our military ventures in places like Iraq, Afghanistan and
So what do any of these problems have to do with the Muslims in our country? Nothing whatsoever. As we have seen, fear is a great tool. But we are better than that because we are Americans. And that means that we put needless fear aside and treat people based on their own merits.