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Education Matters: Prejudice is the enemy, not religion

October 29, 2010|By Dan Kimber

Editor's Note: Numerous instances of plagiarism have been discovered in Dan Kimber’s “Education Matters” column, which ran in the News- Press from September 2003 to September 2011. In those columns where plagiarism has been found, a For the Record specifying the details will be appended to the piece.

I have received a rash of anti-Muslim e-mails lately. Some are from people I know and some are from organizations that somehow have me on their mailing list.

The most recent included pictures of a young boy having his arm mangled as a punishment for stealing. The words underneath the picture of a car rolling over the boy's arm read, "May God have mercy on us who tolerate the Muslim."

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This came from an old friend who I've been politically dueling with for the last 40 years. He seems to be part of a general hysteria in this country over the attempt to build a mosque near the site of the former twin towers in New York.

Americans of all political persuasions and religious stripes have had conflicting emotions regarding 9/11. Our present and previous administrations in Washington have gone to great pains to insist that our country's conflict is with extremism and terrorists, not the Islamic religion itself.

Despite that, a substantial portion of America — particularly red America — does not agree, and in American politics, constituencies always find champions. The Rush Limbaughs and Sarah Palins easily ignite audiences with the argument that the mosque would be a "victory monument" for the attackers and all who supported them.

For others, the proposed mosque tests the limits of one of our most deeply held values: freedom of religion. We look to the Founding Fathers and try to understand their intentions, we study our history to learn from our mistakes, and we weigh judicial precedent — all in an attempt to promote equality before the law.

I went to my friend down the street, Firoz, who is a Muslim. Together we attend neighborhood parties, play golf and have great discussions. Firoz has shown me passages in the Koran that are very much like passages in the Bible; he considers groups like Al Qaida and the Taliban to be perversions of his religion; and he doesn't think the mosque should be built near ground zero. He is as American as I am.

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