Monday, August 30, 2010

On Loving thy Neighbor

I've been thinking a lot about religious tolerance lately, mainly because of Park51--you know, what people call the "mosque at Ground Zero." I can see why some say it is insensitive to the people who lost their lives on 9/11, but I can't say that I think it should be built in a different location. Rights are rights to me. The decision to continue with the project should be left to the owners.

What worries me is the response to the debate. A week ago Sunday I read the August cover story of Time Magazine, and in it, Muslim-American writer and commentator Arsalan Iftikhar says,
"Islamophobia has become the accepted form of racism in America.You can always take a potshot at Muslims or Arabs and get away with it."
I've seen that primarily in online forums--appalling comments left in response to articles about Park51 (I'm sure you can find more than a few on that article I linked to above...consider yourself warned), twisted logic and hateful, ignorant comments about Muslims on facebook. It's easier to shrug off the bigoted comments made by perfect strangers, but when it's your fb friends or at least friends of friends, it's harder to ignore. It's those comments that have made me angry, made me think, made me cry, and that have prompted me to write this post.

Two of my closest friends in the world are Muslim. One of them was my roommate all four years of college. We met and became best friends at the beginning of our freshman year of high school, and we're still best friends. So when people attack her religion, in a way it feels like they are attacking me. Through her, I've been able to meet many other awesome people who are Muslim. I think our relationship works in part because of our religions: we don't drink/smoke/do drugs, we dress modestly, we fast, we pray, we keep the law of chastity, we believe in helping others, etc. etc. When I first met her, I actually thought she was LDS because she told me a story about fasting.  Because of her, I am less afraid to share my religion with others. We respect each other, and we seek to understand each other. I wish there were more of that in America, don't you?

Me and two of my best friends, Girls' Weekend July 2010

Yesterday at church, one of the speakers quoted from a talk called the Doctrine of Inclusion, and she read part of this quote:

"'Each of us is an individual. Each of us is different. There must be respect for those differences. . . .
'. . . We must work harder to build mutual respect, an attitude of forbearance, with tolerance one for another regardless of the doctrines and philosophies which we may espouse. Concerning these you and I may disagree. But we can do so with respect and civility' (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley [1997], 661, 665). 
As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we understand that we are perceived by some to be "a peculiar people" (1 Pet. 2:9). Our doctrines and beliefs are important to us. We embrace them and cherish them. I am not suggesting for a moment that we shouldn't. On the contrary, our peculiarity and the uniqueness of the message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ are indispensable elements in offering the people of the world a clear choice. Neither am I suggesting that we should associate in any relationship that would place us or our families at spiritual risk. We must understand, however, that not everyone is going to accept our doctrine of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. For the most part, our neighbors not of our faith are good, honorable people—every bit as good and honorable as we strive to be. They care about their families, just like we do. They want to make the world a better place, just like we do. They are kind and loving and generous and faithful, just like we seek to be. Nearly 25 years ago, the First Presidency declared: 'Our message . . .  is one of special love and concern for the eternal welfare of all men and women, regardless of religious belief, race, or nationality, knowing that we are truly brothers and sisters because we are sons and daughters of the same Eternal Father' (First Presidency statement, 15 Feb. 1978).
That is our doctrine—a doctrine of inclusion. That is what we believe. That is what we have been taught. Of all people on this earth, we should be the most loving, the kindest, and the most tolerant because of that doctrine."
 When I heard that, I thought, "yes, that's what it's about." I want to teach the world that Muslim is not a synonym for terrorist, to convince them that it is unjust to treat or speak of Muslim Americans as second-class citizens despite their rhetoric, but I know I can't. I can't change everyone's mind. I can, however, try to reach out to those in my own circle of influence, and I'm trying. It feels good to at least write maybe I counterbalanced a smidge of negativity today. So go, be good, do good. =)


Rachel said...

Well said!

Jamie Martin said...

Amen, Alison. This was so sweet a post. I can't agree more.