Some of my readers might be wondering why I have been so supportive of many Muslims against their critics during the past few years.  Certainly Muslim countries are not good places to be Pagan and I would not choose to live in one (I once had the opportunity to live indefinitely in Egypt and my being Pagan was a major reason for saying “no”).  So why my concern?  There are three reasons and the posts I link to help us see them.  First,  let us never forget Muslims are as good and bad a people as any others.  Some are wonderful kind and loving people, others fall very far from that ideal.  But the same can be said of people within every faith tradition.

Second, demonization of any group because of who they are rather than for what they have done  serves the interests of the worst in our society.  The vilest of the right have ruled for over a hundred years in the South by setting race against race.  They are experts at cultivating divisions.  They are doing it with Muslims and Mexicans today and the tactics they use  will be used against us if they find it convenient.  Anyone who thinks otherwise is ignorant of both history and of knowing anything about he “religious” right.

Third, Islam is going through a period of enormous stress and change, far more intense than what Christianity is going through today in this country.  In both cases humane people reacting to the best in their spiritual traditions are struggling with those who would turn their religion into the worship of a depraved demon. Reaching out our hand in friendship and understanding helps those Muslims who represent the hope of a better world .  It does so because in matters religious I think the impact of the heart is ultimately far more important than any argument or appeal to self-interest.  Holding out a hand in friendship and kindness to those who are attacked by the bigoted and ignorant is always a good thing, and is especially so today when Muslim and Christian bigots alike are doing all they can to sow distrust and enmity.  And we should never forget that those bigots hate us as well.  .

But these are merely my words.  Here is a blog by a gay Muslim woman in Syria that speaks for itself.  She writes brilliantly and the heart that will not respond is probably dead.  It is wonderful and moving and beautiful.

In addition, my friend Nancy in Denmark is working closely with Muslim women seeking to expand the status and respect for women within Islam.  She recently posted a blog on Huffington post not on that topic, but rather on the harm done by indiscriminate hate speech towards the Muslim faith – and again, what she writes can be applied to the hateful thing the same kinds of people say about our own practices.

This reminds me of a related point.  Many people, myself included, are very glad Osama bin Laden is no longer able to plot attacks on this country, or any country.  He lived by the sword, without regard for decency, and his died by that same sword.  But to me this is not a reason to celebrate his death.  I even suspect that in terms of ending the terrorist threat Osama’s demise might well be preferable to his being captured, for an imprisoned bin Laden would be a target for blackmail by kidnappings.  Had I been the President I might also have ordered his being killed.  Celebrate the end of his ability to hurt us, yes. Celebrate the enormous blow just given to Al Qaeda, yes. Honor the courage of those who attacked the compound.

But I would not have celebrated killing him.  To me it is unseemly to celebrate the killing of a person.  A death may be a relief without being an occasion for joy.  And while he certainly deserved his fate, and many people will likely live who otherwise would have died had Osama’s compound not been successfully attacked, there remains something regrettable about his being killed, and we should not lose touch with that. To celebrate the death of another creates a sense that he is utterly different from ourselves, that we are good to his evil.  This attitude add credence to those who would sow distrust and worse between Muslims and others.

Hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis who did us no harm  might suggest a bit more nuance is called for.  Many Americans felt feelings of intense self-righteousness when reminded of these deaths for, they argued, our cause was just.  Collateral damage happens.  Indeed it does, and Osama likely used similar logic while being possessed with similar self-righteousness while having been shaped by a far less tolerant culture. We need to remember, and take to heart, the fact that Muslims and Christians and Jews and Pagans, as human beings, share more in common than where they differ.

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