Religious bigotry and stupidity on full display

by Maureen Fiedler

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Last night, as I watched a TV news program, I became enraged by the anti-Muslim diatribes of stupid, bigoted politicians. Most specifically, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said that, if he were elected President, he would consider special Muslim identification cards and the searching of mosques. The New York Times reports today that he says he would definitely implement a "Muslim database."

This is how the Holocaust began in Germany -- requiring Jews to wear the Star of David as a religious identifier. There were no computer databases in those days, but Hitler's government certainly tracked the Jewish population as best it could with human surveillance.

Let me be blunt: Donald Trump has the mindset of a fascist, someone who believes in radical authoritarian nationalism. He is appealing to the worst instincts of human fear and stupidity. He acts as if he never read the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees freedom of religion. He must have flunked high school history classes where the Holocaust is examined. He must not know that religious bigotry has been a stain on American history from the anti-Catholic prejudices of the 19th and 20th centuries, to periodic anti-Semitism to the Islamophobia of today.

Even worse, he seems totally ignorant of the teachings of Islam as it is preached in American mosques today and understood by most American Muslims. According to the Muslim Sufi scholar, Kabir Helminski, "The fundamental Quranic principle is that fighting is allowed only in self-defense, and it is only against those who actively fight against you. Indeed, Islam is a religion that seeks to maximize peace and reconciliation."

Yes, ISIS is trying to hijack Islam with its wanton violence and terror attacks, just like the KKK and German fascists tried to hijack Christianity. That's why the overwhelming majority of Muslims reject ISIS, and the majority of Christians rejected the KKK; it does not represent their faith.

Moreover, Trump and many governors and members of Congress seem unaware of the facts about the terror attacks in Paris that started all this. Many of them want to ban Syrian refugees from the United States! But the perpetrators of the Paris attacks were not Syrians; they were European nationals, citizens of states in the European Union. (Now, will they call for a ban on French and Belgian citizens from coming to the United States? Of course not).

And of course, Syrian refugees are themselves fleeing the violence of ISIS. Could a terrorist slip in among them? Yes . . . but U.S. screening is already very thorough . . . so thorough that it takes 18 months for a Syrian to be admitted to the U.S.

But the multiple governors and members of Congress who want to stop the admission of all Syrian refugees to the United States apparently don't know this, or they choose to ignore it. They are trying to make political hay out of a horrible tragedy.

All this is unworthy of our American heritage and ideals. I suspect that both Christians and Muslims -- and certainly Pope Francis -- would embrace the words inscribed on a plaque in the pedestal of the statue of Lady Liberty: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. . . ." Some of those "huddled masses" today are Syrians and peace-loving Muslims.

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