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Jonathan Kraut: It’s time for a mosque to join the SCV

Democratic Voices

Posted: June 21, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: June 21, 2011 1:55 a.m.
 

Wikipedia describes the Crusades as military campaigns conducted by European armies in the Holy Land between 1095 and 1291. To be blunt, the purpose of the Crusades was for Christian armies to invade, loot and occupy Islamic countries of the Middle East in the name of Jesus Christ.

Obviously, the people who lived in the Holy Land at that time, the majority of whom were Muslim, did not embrace the invaders with open arms. Instead, Arab nations defended their homeland and eventually evicted the Christian armies. As we all know, there is still bad blood between Christians and Muslims to this day.

On Sept. 16, 2001, days after the 9/11 attacks, then-President George W. Bush declared “My administration has a job to do ... We will rid the world of evildoers. This crusade, this war on terrorism, is going to take a while.”

I believe that on that day and with those words, carefully designed to remind Islam of the once-waning war between Christianity and Islam, Bush declared our war on terror as a “crusade,” a war on Islam. This was not the best way to describe our mission and purpose against those who succeeding in killing thousands and attacking us on our homeland.

With that speech, and bent on invading Arab nations once more, Bush unfortunately painted a skewed picture and defined faulty policies, pitting Christian, freedom-loving Americans against Islam — many of whom are also freedom-loving Americans.

To cast all Muslims as terrorists is as narrow-minded and stupid as labeling all Irish Catholics as terrorists because a few committed atrocities in the Irish Republican Army’s war of terror against English rule. To blame a group for the acts of a few is like incarcerating an entire family for the act of one family member.

In Santa Clarita, we now have the opportunity to remedy this errant path started by Bush and perpetuated by conservatives to this day. 

There are several hundred Muslim families among our neighbors in the SCV who wish to build a mosque. This is different from the few, very subdued Islamic centers already in place.

It’s to be a formal place of worship, and with architecture complete with minarets, instead of the nearly invisible structures now used.

Some Muslims are our doctors, accountants, teachers and our friends. Some Muslims are serving our nation with distinction in the armed forces. They are black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American and Arab.

I have found without exception my Islamic friends and acquaintances to be peace-loving, tolerant and opposed to terror and violence. Many came to live here to love and embrace the freedoms guaranteed to all of us. They are also Americans.

Yes, every group and major religion has an aggressive and defiant fringe, but the acts of a few should not condemn the many. My first reason why Santa Clarita needs a mosque is that it is our opportunity to extend to our neighbors the very freedoms we enjoy.

Second, a house of worship perpetuates culture, language, history and heritage. To deny any group the right to follow its peaceful course is to deny the members’ rights. 

Third, several principles of our nation center on freedom of religion, assembly and association. For all you conservatives out there who are lately screaming for “freedom” and “liberty,” every time you hear Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann use those words, remind yourself that they are talking about freedom and liberty for all Americans, not just for you.

Reason four, a Santa Clarita mosque, or a mosque anywhere for that matter, is guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. If we allow one house of worship, we should allow other houses of worship of other faiths, as well. 

Article I states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Dictionary.com defines “bigotry” as “stubborn and complete intolerance of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one’s own.” 

Finally, a Santa Clarita mosque is a good idea because this issue will draw out the bigots among us who wish to stand in the way of exercising American ideals and principals. Some of these less-informed or less-understanding individuals we will be able to identify and end re-election, re-appointment or positions of power or influence in our community.

I hope that in years to come, I can proudly say that our Muslim brothers and sisters have a Santa Clarita mosque of their own, where they are free to pray, assemble and embrace their chosen faith as equals, and as Americans.

Jonathan Kraut serves in the Democratic Party of the SCV, on the SCV Human Relations Forum and SCV Interfaith Council.

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