“This Week” is having a town hall this morning (I’m watching it now), addressing the question, “Should America fear Islam?” There are panelists on both sides of the question, including, on each side, people who lost loved ones on 9/11. One woman, Islamic, said, “America shouldn’t fear any religion. They should fear those who try to make them afraid.”

A woman who lost her pregnant daughter on 9/11 said that she can’t raise her remaining children to fear their neighbors, and that she lost her daughter and doesn’t want to now lose her country. The irony, of course, is that she fears losing her country to those who trade in the fear of losing our country (The same woman said, “I think we should not get into a discussion of whose religion has created more horror on Earth”).

A reverend who thinks that Christianity is the one truth agreed with a radical Muslim that Muslims who don’t practice Sharia law are not real Muslims. To the radical Muslim, that’s an indictment; to the reverend, it’s the justification of his hatred. Another commentator came on to say that the two, the radical Muslim and the radical Christian, are almost identical, flip sides of the same coin of intolerance and hatred.

The reverend had earlier said that he believed that Christianity was the one truth, and that Islam was a lie, and then went on to list the Islamic beliefs and history that he considers justification for his fear of Islam (Sharia law). But, of course, if we exposed Christianity to the same kind of critical examination, we would arrive at much the same kind of realization, that archaic religions fanatically adhered to today do not embrace the advances in our humanity that have transcended their former militancy. To use either of these religions (or any other) as a vehicle for the militancy that is historically embedded within it is the same crime against humanity dressed in different clothes; to use either of these religions (or any other) as a vehicle for compassion and goodwill, as a tolerant lens through which to focus a commitment to humanity, as a social force through which to do good in the world, is an admirable mission.

An FBI agent was brought on to discuss the legitimate terrorist threats, particularly home-grown Islamic terrorism. But he emphasized that the numbers are not dramatic, that the threat of home-grown terrorism does not rise to the level of the threat of mundane violent crime in America. He did not mention what Time Magazine did in its most recent issue (see “American Terrorists in Training”:, the three-fold rise in a single year in the number of radical right-wing militias training to fight their own holy war here on American soil.

One right-winger on the panel said that Islamic law requires that loyal Muslims must lie to advance their religion, and that, therefore, he could not trust the moderate Islamic panelist’s assurance that she is a proud American committed to preserving and promoting a tolerant, peaceful society.

The debate went on to compare the relative levels of violence committed by radical Christianity and radical Islam, whether the building of the Islamic Center in Manhattan is insensitive. Right after Gary Bower insisted that Christians don’t commit acts of violence when they’re upset, a Muslim cleric told of his mosque in a non-controversial location in the heartland of America being destroyed by arson.

A debate broke out whether rising hate crimes against Muslims are real, or committed by Muslims themseves in order to exploit a fabricated victimhood. (Robert?) Spencer cited what a well-informed participant called debunked data (and cited the organizations that had debunked it, including the FBI).

The right-wing extremists on the panel and in the audience kept returning to exaggerated claims of a radicalization that every specifically and professionally informed person (including law enforcement officials) on the panel and in the audience completely debunked. The right-wing man who lost his son insisted that we cannot tolerate Islam in this country, because it is inherently radical and violent. The moderate woman who lost her daughter spoke with the voice of reason and tolerance.

You should link to the video or transcript, and watch or read the whole thing, for the all of it, but most of all for Daisy’s brilliant contribution. Here are two (not necessarily the best) examples: “I believe that in this nation we hold people accountable for crimes after they commit them, and not before.” “They could be sensitive and move the mosque farther away from ground zero; how far away is far enough?”

At the close of the panel discussion, the wife of the Imam behind the cultural center was asked “should you move the center?” She answered, “No. I think American values should prevail.”

So do I.

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