Being true to our Bill of Rights

August 20, 2010

Lately I’ve been wondering whether I want to return to an America that bleeds religious intolerance. Sure, we also struggle with other forms of intolerance. Religious intolerance is of particular concern to me since it violates one of our fundamental rights. When I read about fellow Americans protesting against their fellow (Muslim) Americans’ right to exercise religion, it saddens me.

People justify their actions because they believe Islam is not a peaceful religion. Islam, Christianity & Judaism evolved in the the same region of the world. Islam is no more peaceful or violent than Christianity or Judaism.

All of these religions teach the Golden Rule:

What is hateful to you
do not do to your
fellow man
That is the entire Law
All the rest is commentary
(Judaism)

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
(Christianity)

No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself. (Islam)

I’ve interacted, lived with and visited people of all three faiths. I’ve met compassionate and conscientious practitioners and rigid and fanatic members of these practices. I think we should be cautious before we judge an entire religion/culture based on what some people practice.

Extremists exist in every religion. Every school of thought. Every practice.

Religion or any moral code should make one a better person. One of the purposes of religion is to make the “Me/ego” smaller than the conscience so the person can eventually connect with Ultimate Reality.

When one uses religion (or any other symbolic thought) to regard a person or a group of people as less of an individual, or less worthy of basic rights, then the spirit of extremism is born. Religious practitioners are not the only extremists. Scientists can be extremists too. Governments. Parents. Media. The list is endless.

The spirit of extremism can sprout in anyone. No one is immune to it. One has to be conscious of an extreme thought which may transform into an extreme action.

I’m not saying when violent extremists attack one’s home base, then one should sit back, pray and hope for the best. I believe in defending one’s home. I also think we should look back at our world history and see the political roles all three religions have played. The resentment and animosity towards Islam is not something new. It goes back a long way. Attacking an entire religion based on the actions of these loud extremists alienates and cuts dialogue that one can have with moderate Muslims. This dialogue should not just happen in a governmental level but also among the smallest unit of a society: an individual.

As we protest against followers of a religion, are we being true to the Bill of Rights?

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