In today’s society, religion is a concept surrounded by so much debate and criticism that bringing it up – outside of a place of worship – is either in regards to a politically based matter or completely frowned upon. However, as an academic religious study major, I often avoid the topic of religion, especially in regards to Islam and Christianity, outside of an educational setting because I often become offended on behalf of those who have unfamiliar beliefs.
I mean, when did the unfamiliar become wrong? When did it become okay to be openly prejudiced towards people who were openly Muslim in a land that was founded to establish freedom of religion? When did it become okay to judge those who live in our society based on the actions of a few?
Some of you will instinctively respond with, “When they attacked us!” As a United States Marine Corps veteran, I can’t justify that explanation. Islamic terrorists associated with al Qaeda did attack the United States and in less than one day, they murdered over 2,500 Americans and changed the lives of millions.
But I’m not sure how that justifies openly degrading Muslims worldwide or those who live in our own cities, towns, and neighborhoods? I mean, if people are allowed to participate in a widespread discrimination against Muslims for killing less than 3,000 people, then how should Muslims and Jews feel about the brutal murders of over 200,000 people within a two year timespan.
Suddenly, I’m sure some of you are bracing your fingers, ready to type, “Well we didn’t participate in the Crusades. That had nothing to do with our actions now.” You’re right and I completely agree with you. We had nothing to do with a medieval invasion on religion. I honestly can’t even tell you any of my ancestor’s names or where they lived at the time of those invasions. So you got me, I can’t blame you for something that you had no control over.
But, how can you blame the people of another religion for something they had nothing to do with?
In general, I normally hear one of two explanations that serve as justification for this blame. The first is fear, which is a very powerful motivator.
However, do people fear because there is something to fear or do they fear because they are scared of the unfamiliar?
In regards to Islam, the religion isn’t quite as different from Christianity as some assume. In fact, Muslims believe Jesus lived and they even dedicate an entire book to Mary. Additionally, they believe in the same God – called Allah in Arabic – as Christians do. Beyond that, the only way to make different familiar is to learn about it, not fear it.
Next, many will say that they don’t like Muslims because they believe the wrong things. In this regard, they might be absolutely and completely correct. But last time I checked, the Bible is really huge on sharing the right things with everyone, not just the people who look like you. I mean, Mark 16:15 says, “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” Actually, now that I’m looking at what the Bible says, it also discusses judgement quite a bit. Luke 6:37 states, “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven.”
So, if you consider yourself Christian and you’re busy judging, holding grudges, and avoiding those with different beliefs, aren’t you doing the wrong things?
I’m not saying it’s wrong to fear the unfamiliar and I’m not saying you have to go out and make everybody your best friend. But don’t judge people because their religion is different than yours. America has no national religion, so calling someone “un-American” because they believe in the same God – or different God – than you is inaccurate and naïve.
If you want to keep being prejudiced, you can. But don’t try to justify with explanations that can be applied to you as well. Stop creating a gap between you and others, but mostly, stop blaming that gap on your religious beliefs. I assure you, no major religious scripture – that is not taken out of context – says to openly hate someone else.