“We’re a nation of immigrants, we’re the children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the ones who wanted a better life,” said Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney during his speech at the Republican National Convention on Aug. 30. “They came, not just in pursuit of the riches of this world, but for the richness of this life. Freedom, freedom of religion, freedom to speak their mind, freedom to build a life and, yes, freedom to build a business with their own hands.”
The very essence of the American dream, or so I had always thought. But after six semesters of a higher education, I have come to realize that the American dream is not for everyone — not that everyone doesn’t wish to accomplish it, but that some “Americans” don’t care to grant it.
While we live in a country that allows religious freedom, there are still some faiths coming under fire.
According to a Sept. 5 CNN article by Moni Basu, anti-Islam sentiment has been swelling across America, “strong enough to prompt one imam to wish for the days immediately after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks when President George W. Bush declared that Muslims were not our enemies; that the war on terror was against a select few who acted upon their hate for America.”
But it seems that ignorance has led people to lump the words "Islam" and "terrorism" into one category. According to the article, hate crimes against Muslims increased 50 percent in 2010.
The article also states, “This year’s holy month of Ramadan, which ended August 19, was marred by a spate of violence at U.S. Islamic centers that included a fire, a homemade bomb and pig parts.”
During Ramadan, at least seven mosques and one cemetery were attacked in the U.S.
Muslims make up less than 1 percent of the U.S. population; although Muslims represent a small fraction of Americans, they still deserve equal rights and definitely do not deserve to be treated like presumed criminals.
Today, as we remember the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, a group of Tennesseans gather at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Franklin to spread ideologies against Islam. The program, called "The Threat in Our Backyard," is “organized by people who feel the American way of life is threatened by Islam — in particular, Sharia, or Islamic law," the CNN article states.
Unfortunately, it is programs like this that are a threat to the American way of life. We sell the American dream to people, we advocate for people to have these freedoms in other countries, we defend our beliefs in democracy, but when our beliefs are tested, we resort to hypocritical discrimination.
Ultimately, we are contradicting everything the American dream should be when we continue to spread hate and the persecution of people of other faiths besides Christianity.
The CNN article states that Greg Johnson, vice president of the 9/12 Project Tennessee, believes Sharia law “would mean that practicing homosexuals would be put to death, women would not be educated and would be married off to men chosen by their fathers, and non-Muslims would become kafirs — nonbelievers — relegated to second-class citizenship.”
For those of you who do not know, oxforddictionaries.com defines Sharia as “Islamic canonical law based on the teachings of the Koran and the traditions of the Prophet (Hadith and Sunna), prescribing both religious and secular duties and sometimes retributive penalties for lawbreaking. It has generally been supplemented by legislation adapted to the conditions of the day, though the manner in which it should be applied in modern states is a subject of dispute between Muslim traditionalists and reformists.”
What Johnson fails to point out, however, is that the Bible also says several controversial things that almost no one in modern America would ever think of putting into practice.
Allow me to enlighten you with a few examples.
Leviticus 20:13 states, “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.”
I recognize that some of the readership may agree with this part of the scripture, so I’ll supply some more examples. Deuteronomy 13 and Deuteronomy 17 have several rules for killing people from other religions.
Leviticus 20:9 says, “For every one that curseth his father or his mother shall be surely put to death: he hath cursed his father or his mother; his blood shall be upon him.”
Or Leviticus 20:10 which says, “And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.”
I think I’ve gone far enough, seeing as nearly all of the American population has probably been put to death at this point, but you get the idea. I’m not saying that I agree with these scriptures, but I think we as a population can agree that the book of Leviticus is fairly extreme when it comes to modern-day life.
That is what we should be fighting against. Not Christianity, not Islam, but extremism. We experience acts of violence every day in our country from all kinds of people, from the shooting in Aurora, Colo., to child sex abuse scandals in our churches and schools. We do not have the luxury of defining people as evil based on their religion, when evil comes in different shapes.
I do not wish to cheapen this day of remembrance for those who died in the terrorist attacks of 9/11. I only wish to bring awareness to the ignorance that we spread by persecuting a people based on their faith, their race or their culture. We have to recognize that terrorists come in all shapes, all religions and all races.
Civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
We should judge people based on the content of their character, or we will never be free from hatred, ignorance and persecution of people who only wish to enjoy the freedoms that we boast.
The freedoms that make us proud to be Americans.
Kelsey McClelland is a senior in journalism and mass communications. Please send comments to [email protected].