Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Very Real Dangers Of Being Ignorant

In the months leading up to recent elections, President Bush peppered his speeches with the phrase, "Islamic fascists." I have taken Mr. Bush to task for these ill chosen words on many occasions, but the seed that he has planted has sadly taken root.

Point and case.

Yesterday, six Muslim Imans returning from a conference in Minneapolis were removed from a US Airways plane. The incident occurred when a passenger raised concerns about the men in a note to a flight attendant. Three of the Imans had been peacefully saying their evening prayers in the terminal just prior to the flight.

I'd like to be able to tell you that there is more to this story; that the men were removed because they were overheard making threatening statements or that they attempted to smuggle an unknown substances onto the plane. I cannot. There is nothing else to add to the story

The men were removed because of stereotyping and fear.

Situations such as this are the very real outcome of generalizations and careless language on the part of our leaders. When the President uses terms such as "Islamic fascists" he plays to our worst fears. He exacerbates already existing stereotypes and helps to galvanize opinions against a group, as well as people who appear to be part of that group.

I assure you, if this group had been comprised of six white Christian ministers, praying in English, no one would have batted an eye. There might even have been nods of respect and individuals who would have struck up conversations with the ministers. Christianity is the majority faith in the United States. It is familiar and safe.

If we are ever to break the culture of fear, we MUST move beyond what is comfortable.

A free and open society by its very nature is one that extends the same rights to those who hold the minority opinions and beliefs, as it does to those who hold the majority. The US Airways incident is a good indication of just how far the United States has strayed from this basic tenant of our existence.


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