The other day the head of the Anti-Defamation League, Abe Foxman, joined Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich in condemning the Islamic center and mosque planned for New York City -- even though the city's mayor, Michael Bloomberg welcomes it. What saddens me about the ADL response, which includes casting aspersions on the project because of its unknown funders, is that I once worked for the ADL office in Santa Barbara, coordinating its "No Place for Hate" campaign -- an effort that was designed to overcome misrepresentations and bring people together. But the New York situation isn't the only one at hand. There is an attempt to block the building of a mosque in Murfreesboro, TN, an effort that has been aided and abetted by politicians who are running for office on an anti-Islam platform. Remember that the current Lt. Governor, who is running for governor, has suggested that maybe Islam isn't covered by constitutional protections, because its a cult and not a religion.
Then, beyond politics, there is a whole host of Christian groups and churches that have chosen to attack Islam. Yes, Islam has its share of terrorists and it was an extremist Islamic group that perpetrated 9-11. But, one shouldn't tar and feather an entire religion, one that is adhered to by more than 1 billion people, for the acts of a minority of its adherents.
So, consider the preacher who has proclaimed that he is going to hold a special service where he'll burn the Koran. Now, how is that an example of Christian love? Then there are the so called Christian "specialists" on Islam, who have been shown not to understand this religion, and to have even falsified the nature of their understanding.
Robert Parham has written a very helpful essay for Ethic's Daily that speaks to this problem, sharing two Baptist voices that are trying to counter this problem. It is time, these leaders say, for Christians to refrain from slander, and engage the issues with honesty. With this, I'm in total agreement.
It is time for those Christians (and others), whether they are politicians, preachers, or whatnot, who have cast inappropriate aspersions on Islam and Muslims, to put aside vilification, take a humble stance toward the other, and begin conversations that will lead to understanding and hopefully bring peace.