Tomorrow, O Lord, we Americans will celebrate Independence Day.
America, a republic founded on the concept of freedom of choice in religious practice, equity among all its inhabitants, and equal protection and justice for all under Law.
Grant, O Lord that her people never swerve from these principles, and ever stand together in defense of them.
On Saturday, one of my mother’s friends – who she worked with over 60 years ago – forwarded me an email about the “Muslim heritage in America,” citing how no Muslim landed with the Pilgrims; celebrated the first Thanksgiving; signed the United State Constitution, Declaration of Independence, or Bill of Rights; fought in the American Revolution, American Civil War or on the Allied side during World War II; or walked side-by-side with Martin Luther King Jr.
The missive continued asking whether you’ve ever seen a Muslim hospital, orchestra, or marching band; witnessed a Muslim charity; shaken the hand of a Muslim Girl Scout; or seen a Muslim Candy Striper. It then cited the terrorist acts perpetrated by Muslims at the World Trade Center, Fort Hood, and the Boston Marathon.
It concluded by saying every American and Canadian must read and send to others…”and if you don’t share the message, you are part of the problem!”
In the past, she’s sent nasty, unsubstantiated, right-wing propaganda, but this email made me cringe. While no one is thrilled with recent acts of terrorism by Muslims, inciting fears and raising doubts about someone’s right to live in America because of their religious beliefs isn’t just wrong, it’s egregious. More importantly, terrorism is committed by people from all religions and nationality, including Americans like Ted Kacynski and Timothy McVeigh.
Crack open a history book, and you’ll quickly discover for the first 200 or so years after Christopher Columbus founded the “New World,” diversity in America primarily consisted of people from the European continent, practicing either Christianity or Catholicism.
It wasn’t until Southern plantation owners looked around and exclaimed, “Damn, who’s gonna’ harvest all this cotton,” was there a massive “import” of black people from Africa and the Caribbean. Ditto for railroad barons who decided Chinese workers would suffice for the backbreaking work of laying tracks.
Other groups have come to America, fleeing oppression, war, famine, intolerance, and economic hardships. With each wave of new arrivals, there have been currents of dissent, resentment, and sometimes, violence.
Given time, the currents ebb, and the new inhabitants settling into their communities, finding work or opening shops, sending their kids to school, building place of worship, and workings towards a better future for themselves and their families. There are thousands of communities across America, which have been founded or revitalized by a wave of new Americans. That’s what makes America great.
It’s what we defend when we recall our independence, and celebrate the Fourth of July.
I wrote back to my mother’s friend, pointing out that any person (Hitler, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Saddam Hussein) or group of people (Al Qaeda, ISIS, the Mafia, Irish Republican Army, etc.) who take their beliefs to the extreme are bad.
In addition, the reason why she hasn’t seen a lot of contributions by Muslims to American society is that they comprise about .5% of the population. Even so, some have had a huge impact on America. I listed Dr. Mehmet Oz, disc jockey Casey Kasem, co-founder of YouTube Jawed Karim, founder of the Khan Academy Salman Khan, supermodel Iman, boxer Muhammad Ali, basketball player Shaquilla O’Neal, and head of Newsweek, International Fareed Zakaria.
She immediately wrote back and told me to “get off [my] high horse,” and if I called her a bigot Christian, she’ll call me a bigoted Jew.
I smiled, and immediately blocked her email. Being an American comes with responsibilities, including supporting the first amendment, which guarantees freedom of religion.