Muslims are good folks

By Charley Reese

Muslims Are Good Folks
Wednesday, May 15 2002
By Charley Reese

I wish more Americans had an opportunity to get to know Muslims. Then 
would not be susceptible to the silly anti-Muslim propaganda that is
floated by some right-wing Christians.

Muslims are good folks. One fellow e-mailed me quite convinced that
Muslims lop off the heads of every infidel they meet. I've been a guest 
in the homes of many Muslim friends, and the only thing they lopped off 
were extra servings of lamb.

People believe such nonsense because they are ignorant of the facts. 
The oldest Christian communities in the world are in Muslim countries. Some 
of the oldest Jewish communities in the world are in Muslim countries. The
deputy foreign minister of Iraq is a Christian. Saddam Hussein donated 
$1 million to help build a Christian church in the United States. There 
are Christians in practically all Muslim countries, and there have been for
centuries. I've said all this before, but when lies blow strong, truth
bears repeating.

Islam, like other religions, has different groups. Some are strict in
their observances, and they might be likened to the Christian Pilgrims 
who settled Massachusetts. But even the most strict - commonly called
fundamentalists these days - know that a Muslim is commanded to treat 
Jews and Christians "as I would treat myself," in the words of a Hamas 

In my travels in Muslim countries, sometimes among the poorest of the
poor, I was never panhandled or attacked. As far as crime goes, you'll
find cities like Beirut or Damascus or Amman or Ramallah much safer 
than most American cities.

Islam is not a religion with a hierarchy such as the Roman Catholic
Church. In that respect, Muslims are much like Southern Baptists, only
more so. Any group of Muslims can build a mosque and hire themselves an
imam, or teacher. They are independent. There is no Muslim pope or 
College of Cardinals. There are no bishops. When an imam somewhere issues a 
fatwa, which is a sort of formal opinion on a subject, it is not binding. Like
Protestant Christians, Muslims interpret their holy writings themselves
and consider themselves answerable directly to God - or, to use the 
Arabic word, Allah.

Most of the disputes in the Middle East are secular and political. 
Hamas' quarrel with Israelis is not about the fact that they are Jews but 
about the fact that they occupy Palestine. The objections some Muslims have 
to Western culture are the same as those some Christians have. They don't
like the violence, the immorality, the pornography and the greed. The
conflict one sees between the religious and the secular in some Muslim
countries is similar to the conflict in this country between religious 
and secular folks.

There are 6 million or 7 million American citizens who are Muslims.
Muslims have been in this country since the late 19th century. If you
don't already, you should make an effort to get to know Muslims. You'll
find that they don't fit the stereotypes created by mean-spirited
propaganda or superficial news coverage.

Racism is a monstrous injustice because it imposes a stereotype on
millions of innocent individuals. The only real solution is education 
and broad experience. It seems to me that God creates individuals one at a
time, and it is the human mind that insists on grouping and classifying
them. We should resist that temptation.


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