Sad about the situation of Muslims in the U.S.

Blogger Steve Kelman wonders why, when it comes to Muslims, some Americans have abandoned the commitment to religious tolerance.

At the risk of violating my rule about keeping this blog away from politics -- and this isn't (or shouldn't be) a partisan issue but it unfortunately threatens to become one -- I must report that some of the hateful language, sentiments and actions directed toward American Muslims (including, apparently, the murder of a Muslim taxi driver) are making me sad and ashamed.

My sadness was provoked by reading an article on the front page of the Monday New York Times, titled "American Muslims Ask, 'Will We Ever Belong?'", I would urge blog readers who haven't seen this article to read it. The article featured a discussion and interviews with American Muslims from various walks of life who reported shock and dismay at the anti-Muslim sentiments that have erupted in the wake of the controversy over the location of a mosque near ground zero at the World Trade Center in New York City.

"Will we ever be really completely accepted in American society?" asked an orthopedic surgeon in Cincinnati. "In no other country could we have such freedoms -- that's why so many Muslims choose to make this country their own. But we do wonder whether it will get to the point where people don't want Muslims here anymore." A number of people in the article stated they felt more scared and isolated than even after September 11. "Some of what people are saying in this mosque controversy is very similar to what German media was saying about Jews in the 1920s and 1930s," stated Abdullah Antepli, the Muslim chaplain at Duke University and one of the Muslim clerics who recently visited Nazi death camps to show solidarity with Jews murdered there.

Isn't it obvious that this is not what America stands for? Our tolerance, our acceptance and our openness are such important parts of what makes America great. How can Americans behave in such hateful ways? And where are the Republicans who, like President Bush after the September 11 attacks, rushed to embrace the American Muslim mainstream and make clear that our hatred was of killers and terrorists, not Muslims? New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg showed a good deal of political courage in defending the mosque in the city of Ground Zero and one with a large Jewish population. Where are the other principled politicians? (Gen. David Petraeus wisely has spoken out against the hate-filled plan of a church in Gainesville, Fla., actually to burn copies of the Qu'ran on September 11th, noting among other things the physical danger this appalling stunt poses to U.S. troops. What should book burning remind people of?)

After the article in the Times almost drove me to tears, I sent an email to Mr. Antepli, the Duke chaplain, expressing my sadness as an American and a Jew, for this awful situation. He wrote me back a touching e-mail wishing me best wishes for the upcoming Jewish New Year and added, "It really means a lot to hear a caring friendly voice in the midst of this craziness." I guess my reaction was that this was the least I can do, and that other Americans should be willing to do.

I fear I may get some hate mail or hate postings in response to this blog. This is something decent Americans need to address and urgently.


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