Muslims in the U.S.: Reader comments and further reflections

Blogger Steve Kelman responds to readers who commented on his recent blog post about Muslims who feel unwelcome in the United States.

Again, thanks for this dialogue!

First, I would like to thank all the people who commented on my recent post (“Sad about the situation of Muslims in the U.S.”). My post, as I indicated, was prompted by the article in the New York Times about productive, loyal Muslims in the United States who were feeling unwelcome and frightened by the mood of some of the country right now.

I have no agenda other than to promote values of tolerance and to support the diversity that makes our country both great and also economically vibrant. I do believe that for all our problems with cultural clashes, we are the most successful ethnically and religiously diverse society in the history of the world –- and a model for a globalizing world. I also believe that if there is one thing that will prevent, or at least inhibit, the economic and social decline that has eventually weakened so many great powers in world history, it is the potential for renewal that comes from immigration and new blood introduced into our country.

Welcome Muslims in our society is the right thing to do because diversity is part of our tradition and our strength. It is the right thing to do because at a time when Muslim extremists represent the greatest threat to the security of our country and to the stability and peace of the world, the last thing we want to do is provide them with ammunition in support of their claim that the United States is their enemy.

And it is the right thing to do because the vast majority of Muslims in the U.S. are peaceful, productive members of our society, and fellow human beings to whom we owe respect and friendship.

I agree with the commenters who stated that opposing the location of a mosque near Ground Zero is in no way the same as expressing hatred or intolerance for Muslims or for Islam, and I apologize if anybody got that impression from the post (though my personal view is that the mosque should be allowed there). My point was that the legitimate debate over the mosque had become an occasion for generalized expressions of fear and hate.

Also, I am sympathetic to the view that Muslims in the United States should speak out forcefully against terrorism, hatred and intolerance coming from some groups in the name of Islam. I will confess, however, that I am a little concerned that this demand is especially made to a minority group: Should Jews need especially to apologize for Bernie Madoff, or Catholics for the IRA?

I also agree with the commenters who noted that there are important issues of equality for women, intolerance and economic backwardness that many majority-Muslim countries need to deal with. A misplaced moral relativism shouldn't inhibit us from criticizing practices that violate human rights or endanger peace. But it doesn't seem that these practices are endemic to the Muslim-American community.

Finally, a message to "unsubscribe" -- Don't be unfair to conservatism by associating tolerance with the "far left," a group by the way that never has been particularly known for tolerance! I saw on the news tonight that Sarah Palin had come out on her blog against the Qu'ran burning disgrace.

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