By Sr. Margaret Hoffman, SND
Just after 9/11 I was living in San Jose. There were threats to the large Muslim community in the south Bay Area. We had a very active interfaith group who moved quickly to be supportive of the Muslim population. Non-Muslim women offered to shop with Muslim women to assure that they would not be harassed. We spent time learning about one another's religious culture.
Now as we approach the ninth anniversary of 9/11, fear and hatred of our Muslim neighbors seems again on the rise and spreading across the country, sparked by the projected construction of a Muslim Center near the bombed New York Trade Center.
In the past we have let hysteria, rumors and bigotry divert us. African Americans experienced this irrationality in the South from the Ku Klux Klan; the Irish in the North--"Irish Need Not Apply." And many of us can remember the violent removal of Japanese American citizens to camps during World War II even as their sons fought and died to protect this country. We let our fears run away with us!
Our country was founded on the values of justice and religious freedom for all. Islam is historically one of the great world religions. We need to understand that a handful of misguided terrorists and terrorist groups do not define Islam. What a travesty of American values it is that a Christian group in Florida plans to set fire to a group of books of the Koran on the anniversary of 9/11! Let us hope a warning from General Petraeus about provocation to violence against our troops if this act is carried through will halt it.
Let us rather calm our fears, work for future peace by learning more about our Islamic brothers and sisters and they about us, and pray that we learn to live together respectfully and nonviolently. Feisel Abdul Rauf, Imam and leader of the building of the New York Muslim Center has said it well, when he invites us all "to be part of a global movement to heal relations and bring peace."