Saturday, December 23, 2006

I was born and raised in Pennsylvania, have lived in many places in the USA and Europe, and now live in Virginia, which I have found to be not too bad a place to live...if you like high taxes and horrendous traffic. But there's a reason now to be, if not ashamed, then at least embarassed, to be a Virginian. His name is Virgil Goode, and he's a Republican representative from a Congressional district which, thankfully, is not my own.

Mr Goode has expressed concern about the threat posed by militant Islam, and to the extent that I agree with that concern, I can support him. But Mr Goode has gone far beyond the pale, insulting a fellow elected Representative who happens to be a Muslim and wishes to use the Koran at his swearing-in ceremony, and arguing for severe immigration restrictions on Muslims " preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America."

Regular readers of this blog know that I am a firm believer in the threat posed by intolerant and militant Islam, but what Mr Goode proposes runs completely counter to the values and beliefs he professes to wish to protect. One of the bedrock freedoms granted to Americans is the freedom to worship according to ones personal beliefs. Most Americans are Christians of one sort or another, but many are Jews, some are Buddhists, some are Wiccans, some are Muslims, and some (like myself) follow no particular religion. America welcomes us all, and has built itself into the world's most powerful nation by harnessing the abilities of people of all races, colors, and religions. Perfectly? No. But I doubt that there is another nation anywhere that is as welcoming of all religions as we are.

Some would argue that Islam, as a staunchly (in some cases, harshly) monotheistic religion that does not recognize the validity of any other system of belief, is antithetical to American traditions of religious tolerance. That's true. But there's a place at the American table even for these. If we close our minds, hearts, and borders to Muslims, we are no better than the Wahabis of Saudi Arabia who were protected in the first Persian Gulf war by an American army that was overwhelmingly Christian and Jewish...but whose members were forbidden by the Saudis from practicing their religion even as they risked their lives to protect their religiously bigoted hosts.

Mr Goode does not represent the belief of most Americans in religious tolerance and mutual respect. If we allow him to carry on unchallenged, we lower ourselves to the level of the violent and intolerant Islamists who threaten our very way of life.

We can - and must - show ourselves to be better.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


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