On September 4th there was an Associated Press article by Patrick Condon1 describing how a Muslim couple chose to go to the Minnesota State Fair and hand out cards with information about Islam to the fair goers. Their hopeful goal was to help lessen the hostility and suspicion surrounding their religion.
Unfortunately in the current climate, their chances are slim.
The uproar surrounding the potential building of a Mosque near Ground Zero has reignited Anti-Islamic sentiment in this country. The debate has raged back and forth between the right to build it and the morality of the choice of location. The frustration and friction on all sides is intense.
Amidst this resurgence of suspicion and anger, Salim and Zuleyha Ozonder braved the crowds to hand out cards that said “Islam Explained”.
They desperately want people to know that not all Muslims are terrorists.
They are fighting an uphill battle.
Just as the Pedophile Priest scandal has rocked the Catholic Church, enkindling a huge anti-Catholic backlash, the sentence is “Guilty by Association”.
The majority of Catholics are not perverts. They are good people who work hard, love God and try each day to be good citizens. If one took the time to question the average Catholic, one would find disgust and anger towards the few sick men who preyed upon innocent children. Those priests do not represent the Catholic people.
Public opinion, however, does not see the forest for the trees.
The Church’s only option is to work from within to rebuild the trust and good name that has been lost. Healing has to come from the source. Even though the majority of the members are innocent of the crimes committed, they have all been sullied by what happened.
So too the Muslim faithful.
The terrorist attacks on Sept 11th cast a shadow of suspicion on Muslims as a whole.
Muslims, likewise, need to start within their own religion and people to fix and change the West’s view about them.
Instead of handing out cards and trying to force Mosques down the throats of people who don’t want them at that particular spot. The energy should be focused by good, innocent Muslims to condemn the aggressive, threatening behavior of radical Muslims who are at the center of the anger, suspicion and terror.
The only way acceptance and change will come is if the people involved take radical steps to show that they are willing to meet the rest halfway.
Talking about it is not good enough.
Imam Rauf, the man at the center of the firestorm in New York City, says he wants to “build a bridge” between Islam and the West. The problem is that his actions are not speaking as loud as his words.
The Vatican publicly denounced the pedophiles who attacked the children in their care. Yet at the same time, there were cover ups and what appeared to be extraordinary steps taken to protect the perpetrators. These actions have not fostered support or good feeling between the public at large and the Roman Catholic Church.
Handing out little cards announcing that the followers of Islam are not terrorists is a nice thought. However handing them out while surrounded by fellow believers publicly thumbing their noses at what is considered to be a Sacred site for so many Americans is naïve at best.
Perhaps it is time for someone to step up to the plate and begin a movement of peace within the Islamic community. If Imam Rauf were to call a Press conference and announce that in the interest of peace, in the interest of healing, the proposed Mosque will be relocated to a less incendiary location, it would go a long way to building that bridge.
If the average Christian saw that Muslims were reaching out, actively offering an olive branch to the people that have been so hurt by the radicals within their ranks, they might be more receptive to the little cards being handed to them.
1Muslims Take to Minnesota State Fair to Repair Image. Patrick Condon. Associated Press 9/4/2010