September 8, 2010

The politics of fear and loathing

Religionistas: Islamophobia and Christophobia

On August 24, 2010, the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press released the results of a recent opinion survey. 35% of Americans believe Islam encourages violence to a greater degree than other religions. Eight years ago, only months after the attacks of September 11, 2001 that figure stood at 25%.

45% offer the opposing opinion, saying that Islam does not encourage more violence than other religions, while 24% have no opinion.  The survey also revealed that 38% of Americans have an unfavorable opinion of Islam, compared to just 30% with a favorable view and 32% with no opinion. Recent events, small and large, have put this fear and the reaction to it on front-page display.

A taxi driver in Manhattan was savagely attacked merely because the assailant believed him to be Muslim. A proposed expansion of an Islamic center located a couple blocks away from the World Trade Center site causes volcanic levels of hysteria in the right-wing media and blogosphere. A nut-job minister in Gainesville, FL and about 50 of his followers grabs center stage by threatening to burn copies of the Quran. In Tennessee, federal investigators believe arsonists torched construction equipment at the site of a future mosque in Murfreesboro. In New York State, a Muslim community in Waterport has been targeted and harassed by teenagers.

Politicians, pundits and preachers are fanning the flames of Islamophobia, repeatedly insisting that all of Islam be responsible for the actions of a handful of extremists. Inversely, across the pond, Christians are feeling the brunt of similar fear and loathing, stoked mostly by radical Islamic clerics, religious extremists and leftist politicians.

In Muslim countries practicing Sharia law, discrimination against Christians and Jews is not just practiced, it is codified into law.  Egypt is one of the more secular and moderate of the Muslim countries with a sizable religious minority of Coptic Christians, yet Egyptian law stipulates that a "Muslim man may marry a Christian woman but the opposite is forbidden; and if a Muslim woman does marry a Christian man, both the husband and the wife would be considered adulterers". 

However, it is not only the Muslim countries where we find anti-Christian sentiment. Christophobia is rampant across Northern Europe and England, and in Israel the sentiment is strong.

In May of 2007 a Baptist church in Brighton, England, was invaded by anti-Christian squatters who promptly wrecked the place with garbage and graffiti. In May of 2008, the mayor of a small city near Tel Aviv ordered hundreds of New Testaments confiscated from his citizens. These were later burned. Since the early 90’s, nine Christian churches have been burned in Norway.

In 2009 a Vienna, Austria based security organization issued a report confirming that Christophobia has become not only wide-spread, but perfectly acceptable in Asia, Africa and Europe, much as Islamophobia has become perfectly acceptable in America, Germany, the Netherlands and Great Brittan.  

The struggle isn’t new. Along with Judaism, these philosophies have been doing battle on one front or another for thousands of years, locked in an ongoing struggle for control of the Western World. The holy books of each of these commands adherents to engage the infidels, and to establish nations under Islamic law/Biblical law/The Law of Moses… whatever.

It is all nonsense.

Some 235 years ago a group of wise men recognized the futility of these millennial struggles and, seeking to create a more perfect union, devised a political system outside of any religious law. The framers of our Constitution and the Founders of our republic crafted a constitution that specifically excluded religion of any stripe. The only language in our Constitution that even mentions religion is exclusionary.

Article VI Paragraph 3 of our Constitution states that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” Then there are the two First Amendment clauses commonly known as the "religion clauses" are the Establishment Clause, which states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion," and the Free Exercise Clause "prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

Now, after all these years, we find Christian extremists twisting the words of our Founders in an attempt to circumvent the Establishment Clause, promoting the myth that America was created as a Christian nation, while viral political rhetoric has created a de facto religious test for public office. In the process they are attempting to backdoor Biblical law and, with the help of FOX News and the right wingnut blogosphere, establish the accepted discrimination of Muslims and others who are not “like us.”

The 6,000 year-old struggle progresses unabated while fear and loathing stokes the flames of hatred and violence. One of these days we may discover, perhaps too late, that religion in any form is corrosive to peace and individual freedom.

Thomas Jefferson was a visionary.


Rogue Medic said...

Maybe I am a bit ahead of the curve on noticing that religion in any form is corrosive to peace and individual freedom.

Old NFO said...

Good post MD, and good points... Having just come back from an extended trip in Europe, you are dead on the money...

Old Weird Libra said...

Thank you for continuing to remind us.