Recently, advertisements insinuating that Islam is peculiarly violent have been placed in train stations throughout Westchester County, .
But what do they assume makes Islam violent? Its monotheism? Well, that includes Jews and Christians. Prayer? As a priest, I also stand condemned. Charity? Frightening only to disciples of Ayn Rand. Keeping a fast for a month? It’s probably a healthy practice. Going to a holy site once in a lifetime?
Not sure how the most central tenets of the Islamic faith foster violence.
Certainly there are violent Muslims. Most of the victims? Other Muslims. The people who are on the receiving side of extremism are people who share the same faith. Perhaps the issues are deeper than religious faith.
So I’ll tell you a secret. There are violent Christians, Jews and Atheists also. Give someone an army, and they’ll figure out a purpose for it. Just give them an enemy.
Certainly, there are Muslims who believe America has it out for them. They think that we eagerly invade their countries, take their oil and support their dictatorships. They suggest we treat their prophet and holy text irreverently.
They worry we’ll never leave them alone. They don't know how to get us out of their countries.
Yet still most Muslims reject violence. Certainly a few believe that the only thing the west understands is war. Unfortunately, when we declare war, sometimes people fight back. Let me assure you, I’m for war. But I don’t expect my opponents to peacefully enjoy our armies and supporting us unconditionally. I'm not an idealist. I'm a realist. People don't always like what we're doing.
So what do the ads expect us to do? Ferret out Muslims in our communities? Wag our fingers at them? Convert them to Christianity? Are we to terrorize harass them here?
Or is it a ploy to justify more intrusiveness of our government upon the lives of private citizens? In that case, we all have something to fear. And not from Muslims, but enthusiastic, single minded public officials who see terrorists wherever they look for it. And of course, it merely reveals to Muslims world wide how shallow we value the freedoms we declare are so important.
Fortunately we have magnanimous public officials like Rob Astorino, who celebrated the end of Ramadan with local Muslims. He showed generosity in the face of such pressure.
The institution that placed those ads is a fear-mongering organization run by a self-important, narcissistic opportunist who knows how to personally benefit from a frightened population. It is not Muslims in our country we should be afraid of, but rather those who inflame our undefined bigotries.
Fortunately, plenty of religious institutions have rejected these ads. And so when we are confronted by by such bigotry, may we have the presence of mind to roll our eyes at those attention-seekers, and return to whatever else we do when we wait for the train.
We do have some some rational fears. The countries we’ve invaded are, after all, Islamic. But I wonder if the ads are the expression of a guilty conscience, one that subconsciously believes we deserve what’s coming to us, and awaits our judgment with terror.