By Steve Kelman

Blog archive

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

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.


Posted by Steve Kelman on Sep 07, 2010 at 7:26 PM

Reader Comments

Tue, Sep 14, 2010 Lee Jackson CA

To me this is not about acceptance it’s a bout rights and freedoms of being an American. You have the freedom to dress as you want, watch what you want, say what you want, believe what you want. You also should try to understand that others will not agree with you no matter what you choose and that is their right.

I can only suggest this to all Americans that feel they do not feel accepted. Try involving yourself in the local culture, after all you choose to live where you are.

Being an American is a great thing in my opinion (I’ve been one for 42 years.). Being an American allows you the pursuit of happiness, it doesn’t guaranty happiness. Please try to remember that also.

Mon, Sep 13, 2010 JC

Yes: Scott: Yes where are the Muslims (i.e. leadership) condemning the "radicals" of their religion (or are the radicals the norm is why they don't speak out)?

Mon, Sep 13, 2010 -gary

As to the status of Christians in Muslim countries, are you suggesting that we lower ourselves to the level of those countries? We have religious freedom here in the U.S. They don't in those countries. Yes, I am sad about the treatment of Christians in many Islamic countries. But I submit that we should lead by example, not by "getting even". The "...mosque...at ground zero" is to be a community center, in many ways like a YMCA. It has already been virtually unanimously approved months ago by the NYC planning commission, NYC religious leaders including Christian and Jewish leaders, the Mayor, and the people in the surrounding neighborhoods. It is not "at ground zero" anyway, is is two blocks away in a predominately Islamic neighborhood, and cannot be seen from the ground zero site. These approvals had taken place months ago, long before this contrived controversy arose. Aside from this, there are already at least two long standing active mosques within a few blocks of "ground zero". The "controversy" came from a certain popular news source and seems almost certainly designed to create anti-Islamic sentiment. Certainly the timing was by design because, as noted above, all the approvals in NYC have long been in place. The 911 attacks were instigated by political extremists using religious extremists as their tools. Please don't try to tell us that Christians and Jews don't have their extremists, some of whom have resorted to terrorist acts to express their views both in this country and elsewhere in the world. On the other hand, it is also true that moderate Muslims are not anywhere near loud enough in their protest of Islamic terrorist acts. Sad, because that would ameliorate much of the anti-Muslim sentiment that is expressed by the intolerant. All that said, was it not Jesus who taught to turn the other cheek? It often seems that when it is difficult or inconvenient for Christians to follow the teachings of Jesus, the teachings get ignored.

Mon, Sep 13, 2010 Steve AZ

To Cochise in CA who asks "Who's side on you ON anyway"?. I would remind you that there is not just a Right or Left side to this issue - there is a moderate middle that is saddened by the hijacking of this issue by both the Left and the Right. Moderates wish to keep America open and diverse, as our Founders intended.

Fri, Sep 10, 2010 Cochise CA

Oh yes... and of course, any disagreement with YOUR assessment of the situation must "hate" based. Please recall the days after 9-11. America was attacked by Muslims... yet America did NOT take vengeance against Muslims... as so many anti-American Leftists predicted. Yet in many Moslem countries, the people CHEERED GLEEFULLY in the streets upon hearing news of the attack. They even dubbed the hijackers "The Magnificent 19". Who's side on you ON anyway.

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