Sunday, November 8, 2009
(Above: The Mosque of the Pearls in Lahore, Pakistan, one of many beautiful examples of Muslim architecture)
My friend Cindy, whom I've known since high school, forwarded an email to me last week. You might have seen it yourself.
The email complains about two Muslim Americans being appointed to posts in the Department of Homeland Security and asks, "Didn't we just have a devout Muslim kill our soldiers at Fort Hood in Texas?"
Now, just because one guy, Nadal Hasan, is a murderer doesn't make all Muslims murderers, any more than Timothy McVeigh's massacre of 168 people in Oklahoma City casts suspicion on all evangelical Christians.
So I wrote Cindy back and said, "This strategy makes sense to me. They speak the language, they understand the culture, and they can win the trust of the target community much faster than an outsider could."
But she wasn't convinced. "I'm sorry, but I don't trust these men," she wrote. "Allah teaches it is permissible to lie, cheat, murder, or do anything they can to destroy their enemy."
But, of course, the Muslim holy book, the Qur'an, says no such thing. You can search high and low, and you won't find a single word that permits lying, cheating or murder.
But you can find plenty of passages that forbid such acts, including "Conceal not evidence; for whoever conceals it, his heart is tainted with sin. And Allah knoweth all that ye do.” (Sura 2, verse 283)
Or this: "Woe to those that deal in fraud, those who, when they have to receive by measure from men, exact full measure, but when they have to give by measure or weight to me give less than due. Do they not think that they will be called to account?” (Sura 83, verses 1-4)
There are dozens of such passages, all of them condemning lying, cheating, stealing, murder and, yes, suicide in no uncertain terms.
As Casey Stengel used to say, you could look it up. So where did Cindy get such a wrongheaded notion?
Probably from an anti-Muslim web site, of which there are scores on the Internet, each one brimming with deliberate misinformation.
I'm not the only one worried about this stuff. On Sunday, Gen. George Casey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said one of his biggest fears is an anti-Muslim backlash.
"What happened at Fort Hood was a tragedy," he said on ABC's "This Week." "But I think it would be an even greater tragedy if our diversity became a casualty as well."
Now, Cindy isn't a bad person. But she got frightened by 9/11 - as did we all - and she's letting her emotions cloud her judgment.
Look, it might feel good to bash Muslims, but is that helping or hurting our war against Al Qaeda? Muslims, especially Muslim Americans, are our best weapon in this war.
And they're eager to help. After all, hundreds of Muslims were victims on 9/11, too, including Salman Hamdini, a 23-year-old New York City police cadet who gave his life trying to save others from the Twin Towers.
But if we treat every Muslim as an enemy, we throw that weapon away. Where's the sense in that?
Besides, it's a question of basic fairness: Are Muslim Americans citizens are not? If your answer is yes, then let's start treating them as such.