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Islam on Trial

A recent (ahem) debate on a forum I’m involved with started out as a discussion on the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” — a textbook example of Joseph Goebbel’s “repeat a lie often enough” dictum — but quickly deteriorated into what amounted to a trial of the Islamic faith.

I claim no expertise on the subject of Islam, but I’ve encountered enough anti-religious screeds in my life to recognize that far too many of those who claim “expertise” on this particular faith simply have an axe to grind and are looking for an audience.

A few cherry-picked passages from a particular faith’s scriptures, a handful of questioned motives or minds read, generous hints without providing actual substance, and a vocabulary of emotionally-laden words are all that’s needed to create a blanket condemnation of a worldwide faith shared by over a billion adherents.

Apparently the concept of enquiring of someone who is a living, breathing, current practitioner of a particular faith regarding what they actually believe is considered a loser’s game.

On this particular forum, one self-appointed watchdog went so far as to suggest that the root problem was found in the teachings of Islam, and that Muslims needed to kneel before the world and disavow any aspects of violence that may be found in their scriptures.

There are a couple of major problems with this solution:

1. Islam is not a monolithic faith.

Unlike Catholics for whom the Pope is their world leader or Mormons for whom Thomas S. Monson is their prophet, Muslims rely primarily upon their local Imams to set the tone for the faithful. They have no central authority other than the Koran and even with that there are still Sunnis, Shia and Sufi sects among whom there is disagreement.

2. Even if all Muslims were on the same page doctrinally, why should all Islamic people be equated with a tiny handful of marginalized radicals who have hidden behind their faith to commit atrocities?

Do we hold all Catholics responsible for child sex abuse or all Mormons to blame for the Mountain Meadow Massacre?

3. Furthermore, the prospect of telling a worldwide religion that it must literally bow to the demands of those who themselves have had atrocities committed in their names sounds a lot like the pot calling the kettle black.

Especially when that same self-appointed watchdog is accusing Islam of seeking to convert the world by force.

The tortured logic runs something along the lines of “the only way to prevent Muslims from discriminating against other religions is for the rest of us to discriminate against Muslims.”

The vast majority of Muslims have given no offense to anyone; in fact, the imam behind the effort to build the Islamic community center several blocks from ground zero has openly condemned the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.

As have numerous other Muslim leaders. To the Islamaphobic religion-baiter, however, no amount of condemnation of terrorism seems sufficient to quiet their irrational fears about people who use terror to achieve their objectives.

Speaking of which, is it possible that some of the Muslim people in the two nations our military is currently occupying without benefit of a declared war or even provocation (especially in the case of Iraq), might feel something other than breathless gratitude toward the United States?

I understand that our military goes to great lengths to spare the lives of noncombatants.

But when a nation chooses to engage in warfare to achieve its stated goals, there is a 100 percent likelihood that innocent lives will be lost in the process.

We refer to such unfortunates as “collateral damage”in the sterile language that seeks to keep such things in abstract form without actual details that could provide a more complete picture.

Far too many Americans have a dangerous blind spot that renders them largely incapable of putting themselves in the other guy’s shoes.

Things that would generate years of howling outrage if they happened to innocent Americans seem remarkably excusable when they happen to someone else — especially someone from a Muslim country.

Such cavalier attitudes coupled with a tendency to confuse respect for the military for the idolatrous worship of the arm of the flesh have created something resembling hard feelings in much of the rest of the world, no matter how pure our stated intentions.

Of course the typical belligerent answer to this problem usually sounds something like, “Good. It’s better to be feared than respected.” Or “Fear is the only thing these people (meaning Muslims in particular) understand.”

Worse still, is the absolutely sociopathic tendency to blame the victims for their bad fortune of being “collateral damage” by claiming that “It’s their own fault for not rooting out the bad apples among them themselves.”

Like the drunken man who tells his beaten wife, “You made me do this,” there is never a shred of consideration about whether those who have less than warm fuzzy feelings about what America has been doing abroad might actually have a point.

Meanwhile those who dare to point out any actual wrongs that have occurred through our nation’s increasingly imperial foreign policy are informed that they “Hate America” or simply don’t understand the “real threat” facing our nation.

President John Quincy Adams in 1821 warned those who were willing to listen, that America’s greatness was not found in naked force alone:

“[S]he goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will commend the general cause by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example.

“She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom.

“The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force…. She might become the dictatress of the world. She would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit….

“[America’s] glory is not dominion, but liberty.”

Let those last few words sink in.

There are those out there who would wish harm upon our nation. Some may even possess a small degree of capability to inflict harm.

But a greater threat still is found in our own desires to exercise dominion over others.

Freedom cannot survive in a state of perpetual warfare; a fact recognized and echoed by James Madison when he said:

“Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.”

Nowhere did he or John Quincy Adams suggest that our only alternatives in regards to the rest of the world were either passive submission or all out aggression.

But that is the false dichotomy under which many Americans labor today.

“If we don’t do unto [insert name of enemy du jour here] before they do unto us, we’re doomed!”

Such fearful thinking has paved the way for some of humanity’s most inhumane deeds and has led to the deaths and sufferings of untold millions.

But not everyone has succumbed to this particular siren song with its two-part harmony of fear and nationalism.

There is a growing remnant of those who have sought a better way that relies upon wisdom — meaning knowledge properly applied — rather than fear as its dynamic.

Examples include this blog, The Fearless Path blog, and Revalue America.

These are the tip of a growing iceberg. The common thread they all share is a principle-based approach to the issues and challenges facing our nation and our world.

Political slogans and knee-jerk reactions work great for the unthinking mob, but do little to bring about real solutions.

The sooner a majority of Americans is capable of understanding this difference, the more peaceful all of our lives will become.


bryanhyde1Bryan Hyde is a radio host, husband, father, graduate student at George Wythe University, and seeker of truth. He does professional voice work through his company One Clear Voice.

Bryan blogs at The White Rose Society and writes firearm reviews for The Truth About Guns. He and his wife Becky are raising their six children in Cedar City, Utah.

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  1. Hi Bryan,
    A very thoughtfully written piece, whose sentiment I appreciate. No truth exists without context and in the context of world peace we may be better off learning to follow the spirit of the law, whether national or scriptural, not the letter of it. I know this can be perceived as a radical idea (just ask the Supreme Court), but I humbly submit that when we make love and peace more important than being right, we can learn to connect to others who we appear to disagree with.


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