Traverse City Record-Eagle

September 25, 2010

Harry Dorman: Mosques, Muslims, freedom

Local Columnist

---- — On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, a small group of Islamic extremists attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, killing thousands. They simultaneously hijacked the religion of Islam and the rights of many Muslim-Americans.

Over the past nine years this single monstrous event has turned parts of this great nation against itself, subjecting undeserving Muslim-Americans to discrimination, open hatred and physical attacks on their person and places of work and worship.

The ninth anniversary of 9/11 unfortunately brought together additional volatile elements including deplorable American election-year politics with its self-serving and inflammatory rhetoric, rightful plans to expand an existing New York City mosque, and the threats by a Florida pastor to burn Islamic holy books. There are more wedges dividing an already divided nation.

While the negative energy affecting America presently goes far beyond the scope of this article, there's plenty at risk in connection with the Islam/Muslim/mosque predicament including basic human rights and the 1st Amendment right to freedom of religion.

Most Americans understand that law-abiding citizens in this country — Muslims included — are guaranteed human rights pertaining to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This is not true for those Muslims-Americans persecuted by an ignorant, intolerant and bigoted few — who are as much terrorists as the maniacs who perpetrated 9/11.

These twisted few are apart from mainstream Americans, who know that the acts of Muslim extremists no more represent the whole of Muslim-Americans or Islam than Quran burners, pedophile priests, clinic bombers or doctor killers accurately define the true nature and values of their religions.

Illegally prohibiting lawful expansion of an existing mosque in New York City or anywhere else is discriminatory and in opposition to Muslim-Americans' First Amendment rights to practice their religion. Such action further punishes the innocent for something they didn't do.

It's better to look upon and support the expanded mosque and cultural center as a potential point of healing light, than to use it in an ongoing scheme of retribution and/or political gain.

• Plain truth: Worldwide, the number of followers of Islam exceed the entire population of the U.S. times four — the vast majority of whom live peacefully in their respective cultures.

n Plain truth: As a nation we cannot jeopardize our inalienable rights because of a demented few, no matter how heinous their acts.

A U.S. president once said, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself." In this instance, we must defeat and cast aside the components of fear such as hate, ignorance, intolerance, arrogance, and self-righteous retribution — through public action affirming the powers of love, knowledge, acceptance, humility and forgiveness.

In our heart of hearts, the largely silent majority of us know what is right. Now is the time to do it, by educating ourselves, challenging those ignorant and bigoted, and reaching out to Muslim brothers and sisters across the street and across the nation in a gesture of love, acceptance and healing support.

Do what is right ... and may peace be with you.

The Rev. Harry Dorman is an ordained Wiccan priest, a founding member of ACORD, the Area Council On Religious Diversity, and a member of the Traverse City Area Wiccan Circle. For past Perspective columns, written by area religious leaders, log on to