America, Islam And Prejudice
By Timothy V. Gatto
I recently was contacted by someone that asked me to check out Whitehouse2.com. I was thoroughly impressed with the site because of the simplicity of the premise that it incorporated in its design. It was a simple, straightforward way to make your priorities known to the incoming administration. The beauty of the concept was that if you had a concern that was not listed, it is possible to add it to the list of hundreds of actions the Obama Administration could take to make sure it is following the wishes of the people. Of course, it is very doubtful that the administration will follow the intentions and precepts of the website, but if enough people were to participate in this unique way to further the concept of direct democracy. This is something that is within our reach with the advent of instant communication along with broad access to almost everyone, courtesy of the internet which has become a virtual necessity in this new century.
While the National Initiative 4 Democracy is my desired outcome in the quest for a direct democracy that operates on laws proposed and enacted by the people, and for the people, as our forefathers intended, the Whitehouse2.com is a good step forward. I discovered that there was a particular issue that was not included in the hundreds of other goals that people had submitted. I was going to write an article on the subject anyway, but on the site, I found a perfect opportunity to make my opinion known.
I want to preface this with the fact that I am not a religious man, I subscribe to no particular view in regard as to whether or not there is a God, and if there is indeed a power responsible for everything, which most major religions profess to believe. I reject all of the precepts of most of them except maybe the Buddhist philosophy which is actually more of a self awareness than a religion in the Judeo-Christian tradition. In my view, I compare the belief in Moses, Abraham, Jesus and Mohammed to be no more or less credible than the ancient beliefs in Ra, Zeus, Jupiter and Odin among many other supreme beings. I believe that there is no human on Earth that can state with certainty who or what God is, or what God wishes. I realize that any belief in a God or a religion is in my opinion usually predicated on what society someone is born into. Unless one is a convert later in life, faith in any particular philosophy is usually a product of nurture, not nature. A belief system in some kind of supernatural being is the result of indoctrination based on blind faith rather than logic.
I imagine that I am probably ruffling a few feathers when I admit that I don’t subscribe to any particular belief, and that there are those that actually believe that I am destined to go straight to hell. Well so be it, if that’s what some believe, they are entitled to their opinion, which brings me to the actual point I am trying to get to in this particular essay, and that is the bias and hostility some self proclaimed “true believers” feel about someone or some group with beliefs that are different than their own. There are of course, many who maintain a “live and let live” approach to those that do not think the same as they do. There are however, many diverse religions that look at religions outside of their own as blasphemous or heretical, and actually consider a different point of view as worthy of death. This, in the history of our planet, is more the rule than the exception. So many wars and deaths can be attributed to differences in believing what or who the Supreme Being is, and what that being does or does not condone. If one considers what I expressed about my own particular view on religion, I have a basic outlook of neutrality no matter what any particular sect or religion espouses. To me, they are all based on wishful thinking more than anything else.
So therefore, I am amazed at the current paradigm that exists between the Muslim and Christian and Jewish religions. This is more amazing when you consider how far up the hierarchy these hateful prejudices actually are. I see governments that subscribe to them in such deep-seeded beliefs that they influence an entire nation or an entire regions behavior as can be seen with such clarity in the Middle East and the Indian sub-continent. The most disturbing thing about this is how this nation, the United States, is also so involved in, part and parcel, in this atmosphere of hate and prejudice, to where actual national policy is set. The period since 9/11 has seen ever-growing hate and distrust, not only directed toward fundamentalist militant Islamic groups and governments, but has spread to include all Islamic sects that have no interest in violence or Jihad or violence directed towards infidels. What many people are failing to realize is that with most Muslims, like with most Christians, that their religious beliefs may be part of their lives, it doesn’t control their lives. Religion may add to their belief in how the world should be, but religion doesn’t dictate how the world should operate.
I see the differences between Jews, Muslims and Christian fundamentalists, but I also see many similarities that I believe are lost on those who have a strong religious value system. Unlike people who have a specific belief system ingrained in their emotional and mental preconceptions, I have no such beliefs. I see human beings that have the same physical traits, the same intellect, and the same needs and desires to procreate and to care for their families and loved ones with the basic necessities of life, and to enable them to live happy and healthy lives. They begin hating another group of people, not just because they believe differently about God, but because of things that neighbors, friends, relatives and even their governments have been indoctrinating them with. Sometimes, the manipulation of prejudice and distrust toward a different society or religion is presented as fact by those in positions of authority. They don’t actually come out and tell you to hate another culture; they instead focus on differences that are foreign, or things that seem repugnant to those that are being cultivated. A good example of this is the way women are treated in some Islamic cultures. It would seem that most women are treated as slaves by Muslim men and they are regularly stoned to death for adultery or not being chaperoned with another male that is not their husband. The perception then becomes that all Islamic countries abuse women. Cutting off the hand of a thief is another example of this same hate cultivating rhetoric. It happens but it’s not commonplace as the government would have you believe.
The truth is that most religious wars and clashes don’t happen because of different beliefs in a supreme being, but because of border disputes, economics or war for resources as in the Iraq War. It is totally shameful to impugn an entire religion and culture because of the actions of radical fundamentalists that represent such a slight percentage of Muslims. To think that the United States of America in the 21st century could hold the same basic perceptions that led to the crusades in medieval times is almost unbelievable. It’s relatively easy to understand that since the Communists in Russia were taken from power and the Chinese were so obliging towards buying up U.S. debt, we had to find a common enemy to justify our defense expenditures to keep the military industrial complex in business. The Islamic world just happened to fit the bill and Bush threw them all into his definition of “evildoers”. The Muslims were also the natural target for the Christian fundamentalists like Reverend Hagee, who needs to support the Jews return to Israel (along with their own vendetta against the Palestinians and along with confrontation with Islam) to keep on script as in the Bible’s Revelations. The pay-off for those that truly believe is “Rapture”, when the true believers are called back to Supreme Being. Meanwhile, while we wait, Gaza is again cut off from the basic needs of life, like food and electricity, and the world doesn’t seem to notice, after all… they’re Muslims.
American must not believe the fear and hate mongers. Americans must realize that there should be a separation of church and state, not only in domestic matters but in our foreign policy. We cannot exterminate the entire Islamic culture in order to serve the right wing reactionary government in Israel and their minions that run AIPAC. Our politicians should put America first, not Christianity, not the bible, not Israel. Muslims are not all bad and Christians all good. It is really unbelievable that in this day and age, that I should feel the need to remind people that there are no absolutes in human nature. No religion is all bad; no religion is all knowing and good either, no matter how you were raised or what you believe. Intellectually most of us know that, however emotionally we’re not evaluating what we feel and why. I believe that it is time the Americans embraced some of our better selves. It’s not only the moral thing to do; it’s also the practical thing. We’re in a quagmire and its time we pulled ourselves out using some moral principles and a little common sense. Its not about left and right, its about what is right and wrong.