I might end up with a ton of inflammatory comments about this, but I don’t care. I have to write about this. The New York Times published an article today titled Across Nation, Mosque Projects Meet Opposition, wherein it discusses the fact that some Americans are rallying against allowing mosques to be built all across the country, not just the proposed one near Ground Zero in New York.
In that article, Mr. Mahmoud Harmoush, an imam (the lead priest of a mosque) and a guest lecturer at California State University, talks about the positive things his group does for the community. His group are living among the community and are involved in that community, having sent food to New Orleans after Katrina, participating in festivals around the area, and donating to food banks.
Now that they are trying to build a 25,000 square foot mosque on a property in Temecula, California they have owned for ten years, there is public outcry against the idea, and Mr. Harmoush notes, “We do all these activities and nobody notices. Now that we have to build our center, everybody jumps to make it an issue.”
He’s right. But I have to ask, if Muslims are doing such great things in their local communities, why don’t we know?
And furthermore, most people don’t know how much of our tax money we spend giving aid to foreign countries, including many predominantly Muslim countries. So if America does such great things around the world, why doesn’t anyone know that?
There are surely several reasons. One I can think of is the media, who would never report something positive if we paid them, because we won’t watch or read positive news, but don’t get me started on all that.
A bigger reason is, most of the time people are embarrassed to shout about the good things they do. Call it humility.
But here’s a potentially shocking fact: Muslims are no different than we are. We all feel that if we do the right thing, good things will come our way, and so we don’t run around talking about how great we are. We even frown toward those who do, as it’s considered bragging or self-involvement.
But that’s not how it works with inflammatory types. They only see what they want to see, and without strong evidence to the contrary, their flawed assumptions become powerful.
Think about this: if every time some radical Muslim leader preached to his group of followers that Americans want to see the destruction of Islam and the murder of every Muslim man, woman, and child, one of his more charismatic followers then later told the others, “Actually, I’ve found Americans to be quite wonderful. Last year, when I was living in Providence, my friends invited me to their home for Thanksgiving, and it was a really wonderful experience.”
That would diffuse the entire argument of the leader for some of them. The more jaded among the followers would still believe that we want them all dead. But it’s a start.
It’s also worthy to ask, what do you think would happen if that charismatic follower stood up during the speech of his leader and made that statement? What happened when people spoke out publicly against Hitler, Hussein, Castro, or any of the others? So no one does it, whether they disagree or not.
And the converse is true as well. If every time someone said that Muslims want to take over Congress so they can institute Shariah law someone else said, “That’s not true. They just want to have a place where they can worship in their own way, protect their children from drugs and gangs and give them a good education, and live a nice, safe life,” then the arguments of the radicals lose their power.
Of course, some people do try to make both those arguments, and they are shouted down as uninformed idiots by the radical masses on both sides.
I’ve been to many places around the world, and I have friends from, in no particular order: America, Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Colombia, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Italy, France, Spain, Sweden, China, India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, Morocco, Jordan, Syria, and I’m sure several other countries I’m forgetting (no offense to anyone, or no “offence” for those of you with other English spellings).
One thing I know is that every single person I know, from every single place on the planet, regardless of their age, color, religion, politics, and whatever other demographic we’d like to give them, want exactly the same thing.
We all want to have a safe place to live and prosper, and we want our children to grow up safe and protected, get a good education, and be able to have a good life. We build houses differently, we eat different foods, we worship differently, but those underlying goals are the only things we really want.
So, basically, we are all the same. If you don’t believe me, start asking around, and see who really is Muslim, and ask them what they want from life. Trust me, if you start earnestly asking people, you’ll be surprised what you learn. A few years ago I asked the gas station owner at my corner where he is from. “Pakistan,” he said. An overwhelmingly Muslim country. I asked him his religion, and he said, “Christian.”
He could have been lying, but I doubt it. He is incredibly friendly toward everyone who comes into his store, and it’s far too genuine to be an act. He’s just a happy guy who lives here because he can work hard and provide for his family.
So it seems to me that the thing we all need to do is start massive campaigns to inform the whole world of our true intentions. Muslims can show the world how much they just want peace by promoting it and showing how much they care about their American communities. America can do the same by showing how much we care for and support the people of the Muslim world.
We basically need a promotional group that makes sure everyone knows about the positives the news won’t tell us about. Of course, the last thing we need that group to be is associated with any government or religious group. It needs to be a worldwide volunteer group of, say, Twitter followers who tweet about the good things they see happening among their communities.
Of course, for that to work, we’d actually need to know about our communities, and know that those people over there that just gave clothing to a clothing drive are Muslim. We need more openness and communication.
Communication equals power. In the absence of communication, hatred and ire rule.
Maybe I’ll start that Twitter group. Might be interesting.
Copyright © 2010 Jeremy J. Jones