Tuesday, September 7, 2010

America, Land of the...?

The title is a question because the United States seems to be a bit confused on what it wants to be.

I always grew up thinking that the U.S. was the Land of the Free. To me, free meant the opportunity to do as one pleased (of course, I was 5 when I stepped foot here so I was free as much as my mum allowed me to be). My interpretation of this phrase means that any citizen can do and say as he or she pleases so long as it doesn't violate local laws. That includes freedom to worship (so build the Park 51 mosque).

Unfortunately, it also means that people are free to hate. Irrational hatred has and always will exist, but 2010 is different. Now we have Twitter, Blogger, and a variety of other sites connecting us to potential (mis)information. In addition, a large percentage of the U.S. population probably has regular access to information on the Internet. So, all of a sudden, a fringe group that may enjoy the backing of 50 individuals could gain access to millions. Suddenly, a fringe group's activities are a rallying point for irrational hatred.

Enter the Dove World Outreach Center a 50-member (Evangelical) church in Gainesville, Flordia. They plan to burn Korans on 11 September. Thereby perpetuating the Islamophobia griping some, most?, of this country - where people somehow believe the actions of less than 20 persons spoke for a religion of well over a billion people.

On a blog post entitled "Ten Reasons to Burn a Koran," the author simply mixes personal assessment with a cursory discussion of the religion. "Reason" 9 reads "Deep in the Islamic teaching and culture is the irrational fear and loathing of the West." Those 50 members must have logged some significant frequent flier miles canvassing the entire world's Muslim population. Or they didn't, perhaps they were talking about themselves and got the order mixed up?

Besides stirring the pot of irrational hatred and extremism, the Dove World Outreach Center is getting some free publicity. What better way to recruit new members than with a controversial campaign? But at what cost?

GEN Petraeus in Afghanistan thinks that the Dove Center's recruitment drive is going to cost military lives and has condemned the event. I'm guessing the far-right will only pay lip service to its concern for the men and women in the military who may become causalities. If anything, causalities will just be held up as martyrs and proof that they were right all along.

As a side note, and a lead-up for the next post. Why is nobody discussing the growing numbers of converts to Islam among long-established populations in the U.S.? I get the sense that there's been more than a few conversions to Islam. Does this mean that these people are also enemies of the far-right? Do they no longer have the right to worship wherever they choose, be it in Gainesville, FL or at Park 51 in New York City, NY?

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