This past winter, a friend of mine gave me eighteen Qurans to burn. They were, he said, a Russian translation that included commentary in with the verses. He felt they should be destroyed rather than given to people who might not be able to tell what was authentic verse and what was interpretation. Many Muslims, like my friend, believe that the only permissible way to destroy old or damaged copies of the Quran — or in this case unreliable ones — is to burn them. Not having a fireplace of his own, he thought mine would come in handy for the purpose.
Enter the Dove World Outreach Center, which is planning a “Burn a Qur’an Day” protest both in commemoration of 9-11 and to convince Muslims to convert to Christianity. Oh the irony, that the very act they propose to defile the Qur’an is precisely the thing the most devout Muslims do to honor it.
Another misguided protest — in this case against a proposed mosque — took place this past weekend in Temecula, CA. Organizers of that protest sent emails that announced “a one-hour singing – praying – patriotic rally” The email encouraged participants to “bring your Bibles, flags, signs, dogs and singing voices” because, supposedly, “Muslim women are forbidden to sing” and because “Muslims hate dogs.”
I hate to disappoint them, but Muslim women do sing. Have you ever heard of Bollywood? Or the most popular Egyptian performer of all time, Umm Khulthum, a famous nasheed singer. And of course, there is Ani Zonneveld, whose song, One Friend, won a Grammy a few years back, and who is co-founder of Muslims for Progressive Values along with me. And my own daughters (see picture above) sang with their Islamic school choir at DisneyWorld this past President’s Day.
As for dogs… even though his pup may not be an afghan hound (the royal dog of Afghanistan), it’s pretty obvious how much this Pashtun from Kandahar loves his dog. Below him is my own cutie, Rissa, next to a Saudi fellow showing of his Saluki, one of an ancient breed of Arab hunting dogs. Below them, American scholar of Islam, Khaled Abu Fadl, cuddles with his two rescue dogs, while two Indonesian children are clearly as delighted with their puppy as any children around the world would be. The long and short of it is… no, Muslims don’t hate dogs. At least not all of us. Some of us do, and some of us don’t. Which is pretty much what you get with any group of a billion people… Saying Muslims hate dogs is kind of like saying American’s love them. (ie, really inaccurate.)
Not only are these protesters woefully uneducated about Islam and Muslims, their brazen bigotry is astounding. I find it absolutely amazing that American citizens in 2010 display so proudly their ignorance, prejudice, and hatred of entire classes of people; that they are calling for baiting “the enemy” with things they supposedly dislike; and pushing for the burning of books, what with all the connotations of Nazi Germany that brings up. The Dove Center may use the imagery of peace and the language of love, but their message, to hell with you, Islam is from the Devil, our country has no space for you, is hardly one of peace or love.
Far from espousing the American ideals of the equality of all citizens, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion, they, like the Temecula protesters, insist that America is a Christian nation, with only Christians welcome. (I guess Jews and all the other religious minorities better start packing their bags too. Once the Muslims are gone, you’re sure to be next.)
While the blatant bias is surprising, I find it downright scary that opposition to the proposed mosque at ground zero, the mosque in Mufreesboro, TN, the mosque in California along with the Burn the Qur’an Day protest are not the actions of a lunatic fringe. They are supported by wide swaths of the American public. The fever pitch rhetoric, which continues to grow ever more frenzied (even though that seems impossible!) has taken a toll on the American psyche, and it continues to do so.
American Muslims and our friends must redouble our efforts to show how ludicrous the fears that right wing and conservative media have been whipping up actually are. As for those who are so scared by Muslims, I suggest you get to know some of us. Before you picket to forbid a proposed mosque, go meet the people who are going to pray in it. Before you burn that Qur’an, read a few pages of it.
If we cannot overcome the tidal wave of bigotry that is threatening to swamp our democratic ideals, it will surely be a sad for America. Equally important, the Muslim world is keenly watching how America treats its Muslim population. Google Temecula Mosque and most of the hits come from foreign presses. The Muslim world is acutely aware of American bigotry. That bigotry threatens not only our own values, but also our long-term relationship with the Muslim world. What may seem like small news to many here is big news overseas. If we are serious about improving relations with the Muslim world, we need to start at home, with our own Muslim population.