KITCHENER, Ontario — To listen to the gaggle of Republican candidates currently seeking the presidency, one would think that Christians in the United States are on the verge of government-ordered extinction. President Barack Obama, they and their minions proclaim darkly, seeks to outlaw Christianity and establish either a secular or Shiite society, depending on which doomsayer one listens to.
During the first GOP debates, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said: “Right now, the biggest discrimination is against Christian business owners and individuals who believe in traditional forms of marriage.” This was in reference to Ms. Kim Davis, a Kentucky county clerk, who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex partners. Additionally, Ms. Davis refused to allow those she supervised to issues such licenses. For violating the law of the land, Ms. Davis was jailed for six days.
Many of the GOP presidential candidates rose up in righteous indignation. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul said, “I think it is absurd to put someone in jail for exercising their religious liberty.” One might point out to Mr. Paul that Ms. Davis was not jailed for exercising her religious liberty, but for violating the law. In doing so, she was preventing other people from exercising their civil rights as U.S. citizens.
“I think you should be able to keep your job and follow your conscience,” Mr. Jindal, who has since withdrawn from the race for the GOP nomination, opined. If Ms. Davis felt she couldn’t issue a marriage license to same-sex partners, she could have excused herself from that aspect of her job. The clerks reporting to her, then, could have simply performed those duties, but she instructed them not to do so. Obviously, it was more than just the exercise of her religious liberty at issue; she wanted to do what she could to deprive others of their rights.
The highest praise for Ms. Davis came from former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who said: “What Kim Davis did, in my opinion, was heroic.” Indeed, there are times when violating the law is heroic; soldiers who refuse to kill innocent men, women and children in a war zone are heroic. Refusing military orders that put one’s own life in jeopardy is heroic. But hiding behind the cloak of religion to deprive others of the basic civil right to marry, a right Ms. Davis herself exercised four times, is not heroic.
Around the same time that the religious right was wringing its hands over Ms. Davis’ jailing, Ahmed Mohamed brought a clock to school that he had made from scraps he collected from his father’s shop. The police were called, and the 14-year-old student was taken away in handcuffs.
While there was, thankfully, a hue and cry raised over this unspeakable act of injustice, it didn’t originate from Ms. Davis’ defenders.
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham warned: “We’re at war, folks. Young men from the Mideast are different from Kim Davis. We’ve got to understand that.” But Mr. Mohamed is not a young man from the Mideast. Yes, he was born in Sudan, but he came to the U.S. as a very young child. And doesn’t the idea of looking differently at “young men from the Mideast” smack of racial profiling? Oh, but wait; racial stereotyping seems to be just fine with Mr. Graham.
Meanwhile, Mr. Jindal asserted: “Sure, I don’t think a 14-year-old should ever be arrested for bringing a clock to school, so are you asking me am I glad he was released? I am glad the police were careful. I am glad the police were worried about safety and security issues.” The question to Mr. Jindal wasn’t if he was glad that the boy had been released, a question he didn’t answer, anyway. He was asked to strike a balance between security vigilance and anti-Muslim discrimination. After his muddled response, he immediately switched the topic to Ms. Davis.
Apparently, a white Christian violating the law is a hero, but an Arab Muslim building a clock is a terrorist.
But why should any of this matter? Isn’t radical Islam a threat to all that the U.S. holds dear, at least in theory? To hear white evangelicals, and the candidates seeking their votes, tell it, the word “Muslim” is synonymous with “terrorist.” It is Christian values that will save the day.
An odd phenomenon
Perhaps we should all take a deep breath and try to grasp onto reality for just a moment. In April, The Southern Poverty Law Center released a report which found that from April 2009 to February 2015, “more people have been killed in America by non-Islamic domestic terrorists than jihadists.” And this, of course, doesn’t even consider the more than 30,000 people killed in the U.S. each year by handguns. But as the media perpetrates its own brand of terrorism by terrorizing its viewers with stories of terrorist acts, we might, perhaps, look at a few organizations that don’t garner quite as much publicity, but cause untold suffering.
- The Lord’s Resistance Army was founded by Joseph Kony, with the goal of overthrowing the government of Uganda and establishing a new one based on Mr. Kory’s interpretation of the Ten Commandments. An example of their violence, under-reported by the U.S. media, was the four-day rampage in December 2009, in which they killed at least 345 civilians and kidnapped 250 others. The LRA generally kidnaps children, who they believe are easier to manipulate and turn into fighters.
- The National Liberation Front of Tripura is a paramilitary Christianist movement with the stated goal of seceding from India and establishing a Christian fundamentalist government in Tripura. The NLFT has no tolerance for any religion other than Christianity, and the group has repeatedly shown a willingness to kill, kidnap or torture Hindus who refuse to be converted to its extreme brand of Protestant fundamentalism.
- The Orange Volunteers was a so-called Christian organization in Northern Ireland which opposed the peace process there. During the summer “marching season,” a time when hard-line Protestants dress in orange and parade through predominantly Catholic neighborhoods, The Orange Volunteers increase their religious violence, harassment, and intimidation. In 2005, this included the murder of four Belfast residents. Earlier violence included a machine gun attack in 1993 that killed eight civilians. While this group may not be as deadly as some others, their intimidation tactics include planting bombs (usually defused by police), sending death threats to Catholic business owners, violent assaults and arson. Their violence continued at least through 2009.
And what of Muslim victimization at the hands of people purporting to be Christians? In February 2014, tens of thousands of Muslims fled the city of Bangui, Central African Republic, as Christian vigilantes wielding machetes killed scores of Muslims, and burned and looted their houses and mosques.
Yet at that time, there was no Twitter hashtag of #WeAreAllBangui. The media and various talking heads didn’t show and discuss heartrending photos of dead, wounded or traumatized Muslims. They certainly didn’t condemn Christianity, or say that Christian refugees shouldn’t be accepted into the U.S.
But in the U.S., the self-proclaimed land of the free and the home of the brave, aren’t Muslims accepted as U.S. citizens, with full rights and complete inclusion by their fellow Americans? Aren’t they absorbed into the “Great Melting Pot?” Hardly. Consider the case of Tahera Ahmad: In May, she was denied an unopened soft drink can by a flight attendant who told her it could be used as a weapon, although people sitting around Ms. Ahmad were given unopened cans to enjoy during the domestic flight. Or think of Texas State Rep. Molly White, who, although out of her office in Austin on that state’s “Texas Muslim Capitol Day” in January, left instructions that Muslims visiting her office that day were required to “renounce Islamic terrorist groups and publicly announce allegiance to America and our laws.” And in the aftermath of the recent attacks in Paris, harassment of Muslims is skyrocketing.
Why is it that the mass killings of Muslims by a fringe group of people who follow some twisted brand of Christianity that Jesus Christ wouldn’t recognize, often in African countries, can be ignored, but mass killings of Christians by small numbers of people who follow a twisted interpretation of Islam cause the entire religion to be maligned? Might it have anything to do with skin color? Or perhaps it is simple xenophobia, defined as “an unreasonable fear or hatred of foreigners or strangers or of that which is foreign or strange.” And with less than 3 percent of the U.S. population being Muslim, and 71 percent identifying as Christian, Muslims may be seen by many as “foreign or strange.”
Worldwide, approximately 2.2 billion people are at least nominally Christian and about 1.6 billion are at least nominally Muslim. But while Christianity is not blamed for violence against Muslims, Islam is blamed for violence against Christians. This odd phenomenon seems to be prevalent in many mainly-white nations, which is, possibly, indicative of the problem.
Those who blame Islam for the violence in Paris, or anywhere else where Daesh (commonly referred to in the media as ISIS or ISIL) operates, are as ignorant and wrong as anyone who would blame Christianity for the atrocities listed above, perpetrated by groups that call themselves Christian. Yet the flames of this xenophobic trend are fanned by politicians and the corporate-owned media, and will probably continue to blaze for an extended period of time. And while they do, real problems will be ignored, and more and more innocent people will suffer.
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