Time for Tolerance

Posted on September 14, 2012 by


Eleven years ago, America experienced a horrific act of terrorism on our country. The 9/11 Terrorist Attacks have become a part of our history and we will never forget the many lives lost or the amazing acts of selflessness and courage demonstrated that day and in the years following. Twelve years later, there are many wounds still healing and families still mourning. We have become a more cautious and careful nation, increasing the security of our airports and borders in the hope of better protecting our people. The decisions our government has made in the past twelve years have no doubt been difficult and the many men and women who have fought for our safety overseas have been incredibly brave. We have come together in these past eleven years to protect our families, our neighbors, and our friends and the strength demonstrated by our nation is incredible.

However, in addition to the many wounds still healing, new wounds have formed. In reaction to the hate we have experienced, we have begun to fear a group of people many of us know little about. A group of people, who, because of the faith they follow, are often judged and blamed for actions they have no connection to. These people are Muslim-Americans. These people are our neighbors, our teachers, our coworkers, and these people are Americans, just like us. They have chosen to follow a faith that in recent years has been seen as a violent and extreme group of people completely different than other Americans.

In an article in the Washington Post, Nathan Lean writes, “Last year, in one of the most recent studies to date, the Public Religion Research Institute and the Brookings Institution found that nearly half of all Americans believe that the values of Islam are incompatible with American values.” In the same study, a similar percentage of Americans said they would be uncomfortable with a mosque being built in their neighborhood or a Muslim teaching at a school in their community (The Washington Post). In this modern day and age, when we boast about the American values of freedom and tolerance, this is shocking and upsetting.

The same article notes that in recent years, anti-Muslim hate crimes have increased by fifty percent (The Washington Post). This is sad and scary. A mosque in our neighborhood is a place of worship and reflection for a group of people, how does that affect us? A Muslim teacher in our school may be the finest teacher in the state, what does her religion matter? Out of fear and lack of knowledge of the Islamic faith, we have placed assumptions and judgments on an entire group of people.

We are indeed an incredible nation. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. But part of what makes us incredible is our diversity. I love the fact that we are a melting pot of cultures, languages, and religions. We are “the home of the free and the land of the brave”, are we not? So let’s celebrate that freedom by removing our prejudices and our fear and freeing our fellow citizens of the chains that have been linked to them. And let’s be brave enough to see people of every faith as our neighbors. Let’s be brave enough to learn about religions and traditions other than our own and begin to associate people with facts rather than stereotypes. Tolerance and acceptance can be our collective goals. We cannot hope to be completely without judgment. Our nature is to judge and perceive and we cannot help that. But we can see a person as more than their religion. I would not introduce myself to new friends solely as Lutheran. I would share my name, my hometown, my college, what I’m interested in studying, what I do for fun, what my family is like, what I want to do with my life, what my favorite foods are…probably all before saying that I’m Lutheran. My religion is a part of my life, but it doesn’t define me.

We live in a beautiful country, and our tolerance can only make it more beautiful. There will always be disagreement, violence, and hate. But there can also be compassion, acceptance, and love and that can be even more powerful. As we remember an event that changed our country forever, let us move forward by teaching and demonstrating tolerance. Let us live up to our freedom and our bravery by accepting all of our citizens and learning more about our neighbors than their religion.

Posted in: Islam