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Support Americans of All Faiths
Published on Monday, September 17, 2001 in the San Francisco Chronicle
Support Americans of All Faiths
by Jon Carroll
 
LIKE ALL COLUMNISTS last week, I received an avalanche of mail. Most of it was kind and supportive, and (as I was unable to answer it personally) I take this opportunity to note my considerable gratitude to those letter writers. It really did help.

But I also got other letters. I want to share two with you, exactly as written. First:

"Response to your column on yesterday's genocide (shame on you for not calling it what it was!): The enemy is islam and all moslems (no exceptions -- none were made yesterday). We need to get the Constitution amended immediately to make clear that 'islam' and 'moslems' are not included in the definitions of 'religion' and 'person.' "

Second:

"We do have an enemy, and it is high time we try to wipe the Arab race off of the face of the Earth as well as the Islamic scum. When I saw all those Palestinian women and kids going Yi! Yi! with glee as to what's happen here, and I see Arabs all over the world celebrating, then I say fine. You win this one, but now we kick major ass. Kill all Arabs and Muslims is the only way to settle this. There will be some 'innocents,' but now they have to die. We must also start eliminating our domestic enemies here. It's time for Civil War. If you're going to clean house, you might as well really clean house. Don't you agree?"

So this is the face of the other enemy. We fight a two-front war -- one against the people who would harm us from outside through acts of terror, the other against people who would harm us from the inside through acts of hatred.

THERE ARE ABOUT 1.2 billion Muslims in the world. There are about 280 million Americans. There is, of course, some overlap in those two numbers, because there are many Muslims in America.

They came here for the reasons all our ancestors came here; they were either pulled here by opportunity or pushed here by war or prejudice in their home countries. They believed our promise of religious freedom.

It is going to be a hard time for them now. Racial profiling will become a fact of life in airports and train stations and even ballparks. They will be pulled aside, detained, searched, abused. They will hear taunts.

We owe it to our dream of America to offer comfort and support to the Muslims within our midst. They are not terrorists. Their religion is not a religion of terror. The hijackers are no more typical Muslims than Timothy McVeigh is a typical Christian.

It is easy to be tolerant and openhearted in the good times. Our commitment to the ideals of the Constitution is tested in the tough times. Freedom is freedom for all; that is why our nation is worth protecting.

It's not the purple mountain majesties; it's the sanctuary promised at the entrance to New York Harbor. You are home now. Welcome.

THERE IS A far more selfish reason for tolerance. Every act of hatred, every epithet or beating or taunt, creates another recruit for the forces of terror.

The message of Osama bin Laden is very seductive. Were you ever terrorized by a schoolyard bully? Suppose someone had come to you and said, "Do you want to get back at the bully? Do you want to join others in tormenting your oppressor? Come to our camp, learn our tactics, join our brothers."

People prefer peace to war, but if it has to be war, people prefer winning to losing. We do not need any more enemies right now; we need friends, lots of them. We need to remember that, in world terms, the word "minority" refers to Americans. It refers to Europeans. It refers to Christians.

We should pray, therefore, that our Islamic brothers and sisters find the courage to stand with us.

---

  Looking into the face of hate, trying to form a coherent reply.

The radical priest came to get me released, we were all on the cover of Newsweek.

jcarroll@sfchronicle.com.

©2001 San Francisco Chronicle

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