When, exactly, in the history of the United States did religious intolerance become a problem? Since our founding, the country has been based on ideals of tolerance. Article VI of the Constitution says that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States”; First Amendment states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Equality of religion under the law has kind of been bred into the pedigree of America. This is why I don’t understand — at all, really — the uproar over an Islamic center being constructed in New York. I’m going to let the GOP do its own talking here:
Ground Zero is hallowed ground to Americans. Do you think the Muslims would allow a Jewish temple or Christian church to be built in Mecca?
That’s Elliott Maynard, a Republican candidate for Congress in West Virginia. And okay, I don’t think the Saudis would allows construction of a temple or church in Mecca. But since when do we compare ourselves and our religious tolerance to Saudi Arabia?
I am seriously hard pressed to believe that opposition to the so-called “mosque at Ground Zero” is anything but intolerance, Islamophobia, and a general lack of understanding (and, more worryingly, a lack of desire to understand) Islam. The fact that these feelings can manifest themselves in America is disheartening, to say the least. WWJD? (The “J” here, of course, refers to Jefferson. Or John Adams. Or James Madison. Take your pick, really.)
In light of the recent poll results showing that a staggering number of Americans believe Obama is a Muslim, I thought I’d let the GOP do the talking again here, but this time let’s hear from Gen. Colin Powell, quoted from 2008 when he endorsed Obama for president:
And it is permitted to be said such things as, “Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim.” Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he’s a Christian. He’s always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer’s no, that’s not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, “He’s a Muslim and he might be associated with terrorists.” This is not the way we should be doing it in America. I feel strongly about this particular point because of a picture I saw in a magazine. It was a photo essay about troops who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay was of a mother in Arlington Cemetery, and she had her head on the headstone of her son’s grave. And as the picture focused in, you could see the writing on the headstone. And it gave his awards — Purple Heart, Bronze Star — showed that he died in Iraq, gave his date of birth, date of death. He was 20 years old. And then, at the very top of the headstone, it didn’t have a Christian cross, it didn’t have the Star of David, it had crescent and a star of the Islamic faith. And his name was Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, and he was an American. He was born in New Jersey. He was 14 years old at the time of 9/11, and he waited until he can go serve his country, and he gave his life. Now, we have got to stop polarizing ourselves in this way.