Secularism’s out in America; but Islam not Included

 America seems to be run by a faith in dollar signs and a “me-me-me” culture. As I recently mentioned in my post on Eid al-Fitr, what were previously Christian religious holidays have turned into mere caricatures where piety, holiness and gratitude seem far from everyone’s minds. However, in light of some recent articles I have come across, America’s lack of religious observance is apparently untrue. Christianity is still very much important. Judaism holds sway, at least in foreign policy and economics. Islam, however, is still reviled.

The 11th anniversary of the September 11th World Trade Center attack  is approaching this coming Tuesday. I for one do not see the need to mark the event in ‘anniversary;’ yes, we should never forget the people who tragically lost their lives that day, but shouldn’t a remembrance-an anniversary ‘commemoration’-be for something good? Why do we want to wallow in self-pity? Why do we want to increase our hatred and loathing, sentiments which no doubt flare up in msot people’s minds on this unfortunate day? Arab Christian Khalil Al-Sakakini, a important player in historical Palestine, was quoted as once saying in One Palestine, Complete regarding the fact that Jewish holidays involve a lot of remorse and crying: “A nation whose holidays are only occasions for crying has no future” (p. 128).

Thus, I do not see the need for the constant reminders of September 11 that come each year. This will be my first time spending the day in New York City, the scene of the incident, and I am, for some reason, kind of dreading it. I dread the fact that it stirs up anti-Muslim and anti-Arab hatred. I dread the fact that it provokes ignorance (and not just ignorance in Americans: every foreign-born Muslim I have ever met has insisted to me that 9/11 was an inside job. And these people were not anti-American in any way!)

The United States government-and Americans themselves-need to get a grip when it comes to Islam. Burning mosques and  trying to pass anti-Sharia laws is not appropriate behavior in a country where we’re supposed to be “free to practice whatever religion we like.” According to a article on CNN’s Faith Blog, a group of Tennessee residents are organizing a program entitled “The Threat in Our Backyard.” The irony is that these people act exactly like the fundamentalist Muslims who do give Muslims a bad name: by burning mosques and threatening to burn Qu’rans-as one Florida pastor did- these Americans exhibit the same sort of ignorant, narrow-minded and intolerant mindset that they’re supposedly trying to combat. After all, isn’t that what anti-Islamists hate? The lack of freedom and expression in [fundamental] Islam?

What was most appaling was an article I found on Tunisian newsite Saphir, entitled “Les Musulmans de New York espionnes par la police pour rien,’ espionnes meaning “spied-upon” in French. Apparently this is not breaking news-although I had somehow missed it-but talk about racial profiling! Simply because of their religion, even native-born Muslims were spied on by the New York police for six years. May I just point out that while the WTC attack might have taken place in NYC, that the men who committed the atrocity had in fact been living in Florida? And, just out of curiosity, why did the NYPD-and CIA, apparently-choose New York Muslims to target, when there are equally large populations of Muslims elsewhere in the states? Why not choose, say, Michigan Muslims, or Californian Muslims?

The pledge of allegiance states that this is one nation“under God.” Thomas Jefferson et al. who founded this country may have been Christian, but there are many non-Christians living here now, and this country was founded on the principle that people could practice whichever religion they wished to free from prosecution (hello, the Pilgrims were living in Holland to escape religious persecution in England!) Why should some religions be tolerated but not others? Politically and socially Christianity is accepted, even though most Americans don’t truly practice the religion; in fact, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is a Mormon, which is a less-conventional (if you want to call it that) shoot-off of Christianity! And the Democrats, who are usually secular in nature, made some changes to their platform during the Democratic Convention which I found unsettling. To quote:

“I am here to attest and affirm that our faith and belief in God is central to the American story and informs the values we’ve expressed in our party’s platform,” -Ted Strickland

I thought this was a secular nation? Or, I pray, are the Democrats just alluding to the fact that any belief in God (at least in the monotheistic sense) is central to the Aemerican story? (Highly unlikely, obviously). What was even more, ahem, damning was the line “Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel. The parties have agreed that Jerusalem is a matter for final status negotiations.” I’m sorry, when was it a political party’s business to include another country’s affairs in the party platform? Is it that important? (I am a Democrat, but that was a disgusting move on the Democrat’s part). Apparently, if you’re Christian or Jewish that’s fine, is what the American government is trying to say. After all, the real issue is “Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah.”

To conclude, I can only hope that Islamophobia does not rise. It must be combatted socially and politically. Socially, Americans need to be educated on the real Islam. Politically, our leaders (and police) need to set a better example and realize that racism and exclusion of people’s is NOT supposed to be part of the American creed. As the Imam Talib Abdur Rashid is quoted in Saphir:

‘Le terrorisme est un fléau qu’il faut éliminer, mais on ne peut pas combattre le mal par le mal.’






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