Tolerable Intolerance or, Intolerable Tolerance? A Muslim’s Right to Pray

I have to admit that I receive an ever increasing number of e-mails, comments and story suggestions from a rapidly growing readership, listener and now viewer audience base.

Just this past week I had shared data about the PI Window on Business Blog, which when launched in June 2009 as a “fill-in” site to support the radio show when we were off the air, had only 217 visitors that first month.  By December 2009 we had hit the 6,144 visitor mark for the month and, at the end of this past July had a total of 16,447 visitors.  So far, and only at the halfway point for August, we are sitting at 19,853 visitors.  Suffice to say, I am both thankful and even somewhat humbled by the growth.  By the way, thank you everyone!

That said I have never shied away from the difficult and perhaps even somewhat contentious headlines that fly across our collective consciousness like a Haley’s comet.

Certainly my interview with Haitian Presidential candidate Dr. Eddy Delaleu and the subsequent commentary regarding the at best questionable merits behind Wyclef Jean’s decision to run – especially after watching his CNN interview with Wolf Blitzer – stirred-up a little controversy.

As did my tongue in cheek comments regarding the most recent rantings of White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs who, in his efforts to tear the proverbial strip out of what he called the “Professional Left,” ended up taking a shot at the Canadian Health Care system.

In fact, the viewer/reader response saw some suggest that I am a right wing conservative working for Fox News, while others suggested that my left wing tendencies were on full display.  Right Wing?  Left Wing?  All I know is that I like Buffalo Wings with a favorite beverage every now and then.

In short, and particularly in the case of Gibbs, I incorporated a little bit of a north-of-the-border kind of humor, while trying to present a balanced perspective that would spark discussion and perhaps even debate.

However, I have to admit that when I received the e-mail earlier this morning regarding what has become the topic for today’s post, I was immediately reminded of the 1977 National Socialist Party of America (whose origins were linked to the American Nazi Party), and their attempt to demonstrate their political existence with a march in Skokie.

This was a highly contentious and potentially explosive situation given that Skokie had a significant number of Holocaust survivors living in the community, which was one of the main reasons why the NSPA choose the Village as the site for its march.

It is a compelling story, and fascinating study of the American legal system that was actually made into a movie titled simply “Skokie.”

Now before I go any further, I want to stress that my reason for making reference to the Skokie story is in no way an attempt to draw any kind of parallel between the Nazis and Muslims.  The only reason I am even mentioning it within the confines of this particular blog post is that as detestable as a Nazi march in a community that had a population in which 40% were Jewish, the American Civil Liberties Union actually  interceded on behalf of the NSPA.

If the ACLU could step in to defend the NSPA right to march how then, if we recognize the fact that the vast majority of Muslims are not terrorists, can we take issue with their right to pray?

Note the American Flag in the Background

In the case of the Muslims convening to pray, the text of the e-mail that was sent to me reads as follows:

This is an accurate picture of every Friday afternoon in several locations throughout NYC where there are mosques with a large number of Muslims that cannot fit into the mosque – They fill the surrounding streets, facing east for a couple of hours between about 2 and 4 p.m. – Besides this one at 42nd St and Madison Ave, there is another, even larger group, at 94th St and 3rd Ave.  Also, I presume, you are aware of the dispute over building another “high rise” Mosque a few blocks from “ground zero” – With regard to that one, the “Imam” refuses to disclose where the $110 million dollars to build it is coming from and there is a lawsuit filed to force disclosure of that information – November can’t come soon enough.

This is in New York City on Madison Avenue, not in France or the Middle East or Yemen or Kenya!

Is there a message here? Yes, there is, and they are claiming America for Allah.  If we don’t wake up soon, we are going to “politically correct” ourselves right out of our own country!

The e-mail then states:

A Christian Nation cannot put up a Christmas scene of the baby Jesus in a public place, but the Muslims can stop normal traffic every Friday afternoon by worshiping in the streets…. Something is happening in America that is reminiscent of what is happening in Europe. This is Political Correctness gone crazy…

Finally, the writer’s text erroneously concludes by attributing the following famous quote to Edmund Burke “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”   Even though Burke actually said something vaguely similar in 1770; “when bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle,” it is these subtle inaccuracies that potentially pose the greatest risk.

For example, to what actions are we as Christians and/or Americans being called upon to take?  Is the the e-mail’s writer(s) asking us to return to church en masse and give our own display of a solidarity of faith?

While a November 2007 article in Christianity Today, which cited the results of a study by Stanley Presser of the University of Maryland and Mark Chaves of Duke University confirmed that there was indeed “a (slight) linear decline in church attendance” between 1950 and 1990, Presser and Chaves also determined that attendance has been stable (at about 25%) since the 1990s.  In short does the absence of spillover crowds in churches have something to do with a stifling of our freedom of religion or, does it have more to do with our freedom of choice.

As for the restrictions on the putting up a display of the baby Jesus in a public place, I have yet to hear about a church during the Holiday Season, being ordered by authorities to remove a Nativity scene from their property.  Nor have I seen law enforcement personnel visit homes during the Christmas asking residents to take down their display of the manger in which the Baby Jesus was born.  Clearly, and in each of the above scenarios, the Nativity is openly displayed for all passers-by to see.  Referencing the above scenarios, I would of course welcome any information to the contrary.

The point is simply this, while I do agree that unbridled political correctness can and is often problematic, I have a great deal of difficulty with suggestive pictures and slightly skewed rhetoric being presented as fact in an effort to fan the flames of our possible prejudices, fears and misconceptions.

Yes September 11th is a date of great infamy, and those who perpetrated what has to be one of the most heinous and cowardly acts of terrorism under the guise of religious freedom, should be tracked down and punished.  Whatever our feelings may be for these relative handful of extremists, e-mails such as the one above represent the flip side of the same cowardice through half-truths by painting an entire culture, religion and people under a single brush.

Japanese American Internment should have driven the dangers of perpetuating that mindset home a long time ago.


2 Responses to “Tolerable Intolerance or, Intolerable Tolerance? A Muslim’s Right to Pray”
  1. Paul says:

    I find the idea that “we are going to “politically correct” ourselves right out of our own country!” not only absurd, but also totally frightening. What the writer is actually asking for is the removal of the very freedoms that ensure such a thing will never happen. It is a bigoted mindset that actually sees the middle class as the victims. In the history of western democracy I cannot think of one country where they have reverted to theocracy or dictatorship.

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