Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Religious Discrimination Hurts us All

Despite some of the positive changes that have occurred in terms of the acceptance of diversity in our country with the election of our first African-American president and improved relationships with Muslim nations across the world, the backlash against that progress has contributed to a rise in discrimination and hate crimes against Muslim-Americans. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the outrage of extremists on the right over the election of President Obama fueled by the hate speech of pundits in the media like Beck and Limbaugh, the difficult economy- all of these contribute to the search for scapegoats, particularly Muslims. Since much of the anti-Muslim sentiment in this country has been, if not perpetrated, at least encouraged by government policies, not to mention government officials that have made Islam out to be the enemy of America and our democracy, Muslim-Americans are often fearful of the police and loathe to report abuses outside of their own communities. This makes Muslim people easy targets, for politicians who build their campaigns on fear and bigotry and for those who take it on themselves to discriminate, and even attack Muslim people and their property.

Besides the obvious outrage against morality and our nation's cherished ideals of religious liberty and equality in the pursuit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, these acts committed against our fellow Americans are an affront and a challenge to us as people of faith and good will as well. Every one of the world's great faiths commands it's adherents not just to tolerance of those who are different, but to justice in our dealings with them. Just as our Declaration of Independence declared that all of us are equal and endowed with our Creator with certain unalienable rights, the Abrahamic religions command us to go beyond justice, to love of the stranger, the one who is different. This is, we here at TIA-Long Island believe, is more than an admonishment not to engage in acts of hate and discrimination, it is a commandment to pro-active advocacy for our brothers and sisters of every faith (as well as no faith). The rise in hate crimes in particular is a challenge not just to Muslims, but to Christians and Jews and especially the clergy to stand up and stand with our Muslim brethren, to demand justice, to preach it from our pulpits and to be visible in rebuking those, particularly those who claim our traditions, as a justification for these acts. I invite all Christian and Jewish clergy in particular to join us at TIA-LI in a new effort to become advocates for Mosques, on-call resources and educational leaders in our own communities and in the public square. It's time for us to speak truth to power, practice what we preach and erase the blight of prejudice that is like a plank in the eyes of our congregations and traditions. Get involved, join TIA- Long Island the national Interfaith Alliance. Together we really can be the change we want to see in the world.