What concerns you about Islam in America? What concerns you about legislative efforts to question or restrict Islamic practices? What are the dangers of politicizing a particular faith or demonizing adherents of a particular faith?
There is legitimate reason to fear public and spectacular violence from some adherents of Islam. In November 2009, Nidal Malik Hasan, an American-born psychiatrist and Muslim, killed 13 people and wounded 29 others at Fort Hood, Texas. Following the attack, Al Qaeda spokesman Adam Gadahn praised Hasan as a “pioneer, a trailblazer and a role-model” for other American Muslims.
In May of 2010, Faisal Shahzad, a Muslim immigrant from Pakistan, attempted to detonate a car bomb just off New York City’s Times Square. Shahzad admitted receiving financial and logistical support from the Taliban prior to his failed attempt. We’re six months from the tenth anniversary of a terrorist attack that killed over 3000 Americans. That attack was planned and executed by men who had unwavering faith that their actions were honoring Allah and his Prophet.
It is an undeniable fact that there are Muslims living in the U.S. and elsewhere who aim to do us harm–who would be pleased if America, not to mention Israel, were wiped off the face of the earth. We should expect our political and military leaders to protect us from such men.
Does that reality, however, justify what appear to be indiscriminate attempts to suppress Islam and its practices? Is it morally permissible to judge all adherents of a particular religion by the abhorrent behavior of a few of its members? Is that consistent with our pluralistic political values? We understand that there’s more than a little difference between your average church members at First Congo and Bellevue Baptist. The same is true among Muslims; there are multiple and varied expressions of Islam. The citizen within me is wary of legislating against all Muslims.
The Christian in me has reservations, as well.
On one level, Islam rejects the things I hold most true and dear. The Qur’an denies the Trinity, the divinity of Jesus Christ, the redemptive power of Jesus’ death, and the reality of His resurrection. On another level, I have more in common with faithful Muslims than I do with many of my fellow Americans. We both believe in a personal, transcendent God, in objective moral truth, and in a future judgment where all that is wrong in our world will be made right.
I have another selfish reason to speak against unwarranted suppression of Muslims: I, too, am a conservative religious person whose values are objectionable to some of my fellow citizens. All of us have an interest in protecting the individual and religious liberties of others–it’s a safeguard for our own faith and practice.
The practical answer to our question of the week? Prudence, balance, and intelligence–three values in short supply among many of our political leaders. We should vigorously reject religion-baiting as a means to political gain. We should be highly skeptical of legislation aimed at any particular religious community, opting rather to prohibit objective behaviors or practices that clearly foment violence. If law enforcement attention is directed at Muslims and their organizations, it must be within the strictures of our laws–and done with reasonable oversight and transparency. Those of us who reflexively reject all or nearly all use of police powers must face the fact that we have a small number of real enemies with murderous intent. If we together apply prudence, balance, and intelligence to these complex circumstances, perhaps we can protect our citizens without oppressing our neighbors.