Education Antidote to Islamophobia
I am writing in response and yes in support of Mr. Henry's letter printed 9/6/10 entitled "Dobbs is Wrong again." In it, he discusses many relevant issues relating to the proposed building of the mosque in NYC such as whether it is a local issue, whether there is a clear separation of church and state, freedom of prayer vs. attacks on religious freedom and Islamaphobia. I applaud Mr. Henry for having the courage to speak out on such a sensitive topic.
In his last sentence Mr. Henry used a statistic "99.44 percent" referring to the large majority of Americans who are not Islamophobic. It seemed fairly obvious that he was using an estimate to prove his point. However in the editors note, there was a lengthy eight paragraph explanation of a CBS poll which would show the "real" statistics. So much emphasis was put on proving Mr. Henry wrong on a moot point that his inspirational message of inclusion and religious tolerance was lost.
After 9/11, Islamophobia seeped into mainstream America like a rabid infection. Unfortunately, the battle cry of conservatives was if you are FOR America then you must be AGAINST Islam. Americans were asked to choose. Many of us remember acts of injustice that occurred in Western Massachusetts such as the criminals who sprayed "Bomb Islam" over the railroad bridge on Rte. 20. At the same time there were thousands of acts of kindness shown toward Muslim Americans, most memorably American children standing up for other Muslim-American children in classrooms and on the playground.
The great antidote for prejudice is education. There are many resources available in Western Massachusetts to learn about Islam. Several times a year there are inter-faith field trips that visit a mosque in West Springfield, a temple in Longmeadow and a Greek Orthodox church in Springfield. These trips are open to all. Learning about other religions and their creeds dispels any myths and misconceptions.
Regrettably, there is a minority of extremists in every religion who twist words and ideologies to push a radical agenda. Thankfully, the majority of religious followers live peacefully and harmoniously in our society. I encourage everyone to open their minds and their hearts and to pray that the minority will see the light.
Kathleen Cordier, East Longmeadow