American hiker Sarah Shourd has been released from an Iranian prison after having been detained for one year. Her release was scheduled last week after her family was able to pay $500,000 bail. The source of how the family got the money is unknown. She is also being released on humanitarian grounds after it was discovered that she has a lump in her breast and precancerous cells. Shourd was arrested in July 2009 along with two other hikers who have yet to be released. The three were arrested near the Iran-Iraq border and charged with spying for the U.S.
This comes on the heels of a tumultuous summer of strained American-Muslim tensions. With the debate over the building of a mosque near the site of the 9/11 attacks still raging on, there has also been the furor over the canceled burning of the Koran, the Muslim holy book.
A Florida pastor had threatened to burn the book on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in protest to the building of a mosque near Ground Zero. The pastor, Terry Jones, said he changed his mind after speaking with the official behind the building of the mosque, who promised him they’d change locations, which turned out to not be true. Jones has since said that neither he nor his church would partake in any burning of the Koran at any time. The immediate firestorm that brewed over this proposed burning was much more heated than the furor over the building of the mosque. As it turns out, it was U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates who called Jones and asked him to call off the burning.
Tensions between the Western and Muslim worlds are incredibly tense right now; the release of Shroud may come off as nothing more than an ignored olive branch. For there to be a significant change, it needs to be a series of olive branches. You can’t expect the release of one sick woman from jail (also released because of the payment of $500,000 bail, no less) to significantly help. It’s also not going to be overnight, either.
There needs to be a real change in sentiment, in core beliefs of those different from us. There’s also so much history between the Muslim world and the Western world that it is going to be a long process. We’re also still embedded in a war with Afghanistan and still hold a strong military presence in Iraq. If we want stronger relations, maybe we should only be trying to hunt for the terrorists responsible for the 9/11 attacks, rather than engage in wars with other countries.
Instead of seeing the building of a mosque as insulting, we should see it as a sign for peace. If we all admit we can coexist peacefully, then we have a chance. If nothing else, we have to first admit we can coexist without it turning into a heated religious debate. We’re not going to get anywhere if we keep on referring to the Muslims as people being against America (especially with our own large Muslim-American population). We need to understand we’re not the only country, only culture, and that there are several religions practiced, none being better than the other. It is only then we stand a chance for peace.
Associated Press, “Iran releases detained hiker”, KPS Local
Sean Maher, “Health dangers could be key to release of U.S. hiker held in Iran”, the Oakland Tribune
Blair Woynarski, “Mosque and book-burning ignite protest”, The Sheaf.com