Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | January 4, 2011

Religion-based mosque opposition is un-American

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” ~ Philosopher George Santayana

The local Muslim community’s plans for a mosque in San Martin recently made the news, and like clockwork, a letter to the editor opposing those plans appeared in the newspaper. As usual, the opposition wasn’t based on zoning, traffic, architecture or other potentially legitimate planning concerns. Instead, once again, the opposition was based on the religion of the project’s backers.

This ignorant, unfair, fear-based and blatantly un-American behavior never ceases to amaze me. After all, we’re a country of patriotic Americans who value the promises made in our Constitution, appreciate that they apply equally to all, and honor the sacrifices made by patriots to protect and defend those promises for more than 200 years, right? Then I read the opinion page and am reminded that description doesn’t apply to all of us.

This time, Jim Becker of San Martin wrote a letter to the editor about the proposed mosque that that paints all Muslims with the same broad brush. Although I shouldn’t be, I’m stunned once again by the lack of understanding of history, the disregard for this country’s foundational principles, and the absence of shame at displaying those for the world to see.

Becker wrote that we are “at war with radical Muslims.” We’re not, actually. We’re at war with the terrorists who attacked us on Sept. 11, 2011. That’s a point that President George W. Bush made repeatedly during his administration; he noted that claims that America is fighting Islam advance the terrorists’ cause. That not-at-all-subtle point was apparently lost on Becker, who also proposed loyalty tests for Muslims before they’re allowed to proceed with their project. It’s appalling.

Would Becker suggest pedophilia tests for Catholics before the proposed Catholic high school is built in southeast Morgan Hill? Would Becker suggest that the backers of that project publicly demonstrate their opposition to raping children? I don’t recall seeing any indignant letters to the editor from Becker about that project, which, like the mosque project, is in the fundraising and planning stages.

Of course, anyone who proposes such a test faces immediate and proper denunciation. Just because some Catholic priests are pedophiles, it doesn’t follow that all Catholics — or even just Catholic priests — should be pedophilia suspects or required to prove that they don’t rape children. But when it comes to Islam, too many of us turn off our brains, react with fear, ignore the Constitution, and paint all Muslims with the same broad brush. It’s shameful.

Sadly, Becker is not alone. He’s following the odious example of people like Rep. Peter King (R-NY), newly minted chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, who plans to hold hearings to investigate the “radicalization of the Muslim community.” The echoes of McCarthyism are frightening, and King’s willingness to ignore the lessons of that disgraceful and painful chapter of American history is disturbing.

Instead, let’s heed the lessons that history offers.

In America’s recent past, we imprisoned Americans of Japanese ancestry because we were at war with Japan. We acted out of fear and ignorance and ignored core American principles to justify that plan. We now deeply regret it.

In America’s recent past, we banned marriages between people of different races. In America’s deep south, African-Americans were not allowed to use the same water fountains, soda counters, schools or bus seats as white Americans. Longer ago, black people were violently bought, sold and kept as slaves. We acted out of fear and ignorance and ignored core American principles to justify those practices. We now deeply regret them.

In most parts of America, people of the same gender cannot marry, and we are just beginning to end our practice of prohibiting homosexuals from serving openly in the military. We acted out of fear and ignorance and ignored core American principles to justify those policies. Most of us deeply regret them now.

This country was founded on the principles of freedom of speech, religion, assembly; our Constitution promises that everyone will receive equal protection from our laws. Let’s not abandon the principles that our forefathers fought, bled and died to defend.

It’s up to those of us who value their sacrifices to protect those principles today. Those of us who consider ourselves to be patriots must fight un-American bigotry, rank ignorance and fear mongering whenever they appear.

“All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” ~Edmund Burke

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