The Confusion Sown By Islam

The Confusion Sown By


Leonard Zwelling

         I am no expert on comparative religion.

         However, the latest flap launched by comedian and talk show
host Bill Maher about the uniquely violent nature of Islam really doesn’t help
answer the question that most Americans are struggling with. What is the
correct posture of the United States with regard to Islam in the country and in
the world? Most caring Americans are also wondering how should I behave toward
and feel about those who exercise their American right to religious freedom in
a fashion that appears on the surface to mirror that employed by those
wishing to harm Americans despite their neighbors having nothing in common with
the terrorists?

am afraid I will revert to the response my boss Dr. Kripke used to give me when
we had tough problems to solve. “We will address these on a case-by-case
basis.” As usual, Margaret was right.

         The latest outrage of a bombing of a school in Nigeria
likely to have been performed by Islamic militants in no way reflects the
beliefs or actions of those Americans with whom we all live and who happen to
be Muslims.

         There is probably no religion in the world that cannot be
perverted to become a sword instead of the comfort it is supposed to be. That’s
primarily because the practice of religion is a human endeavor and fraught with
error as most human endeavors are. Thus, condemning all Muslims in America for
the actions of many others in the Middle East or Africa is a bad idea.
Nonetheless, it is worrisome to Americans that so much violence is perpetrated
in the name of Islam, that this appears to be a recent (it is not) or unique to
Islam (it is not, think the Crusades and the Red Sea), and that the trappings
of Islamic faith are far more frequently seen in public now as more Islamic
Americans choose to dress in a fashion that announces their faith with head
coverings and other manner of attire that while certainly within anyone’s right
to don, also has become like a red cape in front of a charging bull to some
Americans since 9/11. That it should not be incendiary is of no help when the
reaction on the part of these concerned and worried Americans to the Islamic
attire is at the gut not cerebral level.

         So let me make a plea and it is one I make to myself every
day. It is likely in this world and in today’s America that in the course of
your day, you will meet people or pass people who do not ascribe to your faith,
belief system or even form of dress. This may strike you as a clear statement
on the part of that person as “I am other.” Don’t think it means “I am not an American.”
It may be that the person wants to be other. But it may also be a demonstration
of faith or obedience or a host of other things, none of which undermines that
person’s loyalty to this country. In fact, if America stands for anything, it
ought to be for tolerance of “others” who do not ascribe to the mainstream.
Without those people, America never would have become the beacon to the world
that it is.

when I find myself reacting negatively to such an encounter all I can say to
myself is: “you are prejudiced against this. Recognize in your consciousness
what you are thinking subconsciously. Don’t react. Just be with your prejudice
and in doing that you are starting to reduce this feeling for next time.”

good friend and spiritual teacher Stephen Levine taught me that the first step
in getting a kleptomaniac to stop stealing is getting her to realize that she
is stealing. The first step in ending racism and prejudice is not making
yourself unbiased. Your prejudice took years to develop. It cannot be reversed
on command. But, the key is realizing that you are biased. It is the essence of
meditation. It is the conscious return to the present moment. It does require a
certain bit of truthiness with oneself, but you will survive this thought

         Now, if I can only get good at it….Maybe if I had more

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