Examiner Editorial: Mosque debate highlights American tolerance

Time magazine asked recently whether America has “a Muslim problem,” and suggested that “many” of those opposed to the ground zero mosque “are motivated by deep-seated Islamophobia.” The same article states that “46% of Americans believe Islam is more likely than other faiths to encourage violence against nonbelievers.”

But as the article concedes, there has been no increase in violence against Muslims. In reality, Americans remain fastidiously tolerant of all religions, even one that inspired 19 fanatics to hijack four commercial airliners on 9/11 and kill more than 3,000 Americans.

Time requires a peculiar sort of blindness to see so much imagined intolerance in America — especially based solely on “anecdotal evidence” — while nearly ignoring the religious intolerance in most Islamic countries. A group of Muslims seeks to erect an Islamic center near ground zero in a city that already has 100 mosques, and they face, at worst, disapproval, stern looks and calls to relocate their project.

Contrast this with a news report by journalist Mindy Belz in the current issue of World magazine, concerning Afghanistan’s small community of Christian converts. Belz describes how an Afghan television station recently broadcast a video of a baptismal service, sparking riots in the streets of Kabul and leading to the arrest of 25 Christians.

Nobody knows at this time the fate of those arrested. Because it is illegal for Muslims to convert in Afghanistan — as it is in most Islamic countries — people who choose any other faith face the death penalty. Adherents of other religions, meanwhile, are subject to official discrimination and persecution, despite guarantees to the contrary in Afghanistan’s constitution. Thus, the plight of Christians is shared in many Islamic countries by Buddhists, Baha’is, Hindus and Zoroastrians.

As Time puts it, it is wrong to “conflate Islam with terrorism and savagery.” But the world must be dealt with as it is and not as we wish it were. That requires us to accept the reality that some Islamic clerics worldwide still refuse to condemn violence against nonbelievers.

In contrast, Americans who oppose the mosque are not even demanding that its developers be arrested or harmed in any way for their beliefs. They ask only that the mosque developers voluntarily show common sense, decency and sensitivity for America’s loss on 9/11.

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