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[By Charley Reese -- May 10, 2002]
courtesy: Cair internet newsletter

I wish more Americans had an opportunity to get to know Muslims. Then
they 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. Even 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 strictest -- 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, Damascus, 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 Allah -- to use the Arabic word.

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 know one or more 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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