I’m Disturbed By Muslimophobia

I’m troubled by what I see as an increase in the neologism, muslimophobia (fear of Muslims), in this country. It appears that many people associate the term Muslim with terror and terrorists. Any mention of Muslim activity for some, whether it be political, social or religious, ignites condemnation of all Muslims and fear of another nine-eleven attack.

This growing mindset reminds me of the widespread bigotry, discrimination and hatred towards post-Civil War African-Americans pervasive across the South until long after Civil Rights legislation reigned in its most overt manifestations. In the 1970’s I worked with native Southerners in Selma, Alabama who freely used the N word and told N word jokes when not in their presence. Some were so bigoted that they didn’t hesitate to use the N word when in their presence. As an Iowa native being exposed to that mindset for the first time The  overt disrespect of an entire race and culture troubled me.

I’m perceiving some of the same mass fear and disdain for all Muslims stemming from the 19 terrorists who plotted and carried out the attack on the Twin Towers. They were members of the larger radical, Muslim splinter group whose single goal in life is to rid the planet of anyone who doesn’t embrace their terrorist agenda. That group is still very active, covert, and determined to destroy as many lives as they can, even their own, to propagate their hatred.

They don’t seem that different from another group of hate mongers that infested our landscape in the 20th century. The Ku Klux Klan wanted to rid our country of the influence of Black Americans as well as Jews. The KKK resorted to any means necessary (including beatings, rape and murder) to propagate their agenda of hate, bigotry and racial superiority. Those cowards hid behind their white sheets and cone head masks and struck terror into the hearts of non-whites.

KKK members were white racists who lived, worked and raised their families among decent, peace-loving, God-fearing whites in their communities. But non-whites, and other countries, didn’t condemn the white race because of the stupidity and hateful, violent acts of this mindless splinter group.

I want to ask if anyone out there knows any Muslims personally. Has anyone made friends with Muslim neighbors? Has anyone had any business dealings with Muslims? I am friends with a Muslim family. I am helping the mother learn English. We meet regularly in her home for lessons I prepare for her. Her two daughters and I are working together to help the mother learn to speak and write better English.

She has a wonderful sense of humor. She is very attentive and eager to learn to write and speak better English. Her daughters are polite and friendly and do well in school. We are friends on Facebook now. The family has both Muslim and non-Muslim friends and neighbors. Her husband is the owner of an engineering company. She and I spend time in conversation practicing English and telling each other about our lives, cultures, religions and families. I learned that her family arranged her marriage to her husband through their families, as is their custom in her part of the world.

I don’t fear going to their home. I’m not afraid they will blow up the neighborhood, kidnap me or harbor terrorists in their basement. I doubt they will burn copies of the Bible in their front yard. In fact, we have had some very interesting conversations as she shares about Islam and I share about Christianity. If this Muslim family were our neighbors I’m certain we would borrow sugar and eggs from each other and talk across our front yards, maybe even share meals and activities together once in a while.

I’m also certain that 99.99 percent of Muslim families living in this country are much like this family. Are their religious beliefs different from mine? Certainly. Their culture is different, their social structure is different, their family life is different, their customs are different, their traditions are different. That doesn’t make them wrong, or any less American than us. Besides, similarities build tolerance and relationships, not differences. We know that in a relationship, however, just like a marriage, differences can become points of attraction.

Do some Muslims living in this country dislike (or maybe hate) Americans? Sure. Some Americans dislike (or maybe hate) Muslims. Let’s agree to discount the haters on both sides. They’re lunatic fringe. But, can we, as reasonable people, make an effort to live together in peace and harmony? Living together with all kinds of people from different backgrounds, races and cultures is what makes America America. Let’s eradicate Muslimophobia in our lifetime by making a concerted effort to know them as real persons—as neighbors, work associates, classmates, or workout companions at the gym.

That lunatic pastor from Florida who was going to burn the Cur’an said the book was from Satan, yet he admitted he’d never read it. Ignorance breeds fear. How can you fear an entire people if you don’t know any of them personally?

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