Looks like fear — not turkey — is the main course being served in our country this week.
Political opportunists running for president have been cooking up a heaping platter of anti-Muslim sentiment since the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris. They’ve geared us up for an epic Hategiving with their ugly proposals to shut down mosques, register American Muslims and reject Syrian refugees who aren’t Christians.
If you don’t think Muslims are under attack, take a look at what went down in the town of Fredericksburg last week.
The Islamic Center of Fredericksburg — a little brick building that looks like a bank branch office and has been around for 27 years — was skewered at a community meeting by a handful of seething people who see the center’s expansion plans as a threat to the very fabric of America.
“Nobody, nobody, nobody wants your evil cult in this county,” a man said in a video of the Tuesday meeting posted online by the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star. “I will do everything in my power to make sure that doesn’t happen, because you are terrorists.”
He wasn’t the only one spewing hatred.
A man wearing a sweatshirt emblazoned with a flying eagle with American flag wings and the words “Land of the Free, Home of the Brave” kept getting up and shouting down the engineers and their blueprints.
“We all saying it: Muslim is evil,” he boomed, as murmurs and some low cheers fluttered around him.
This was said in a public meeting. In front of a large group of Muslims who have lived, worked and worshiped in this community for years. About a center that has been sponsoring a food pantry, prayers and subversive events such as “Farm Fun Day” for nearly three decades.
The Islamic Center’s grand expansion plan? It wants to grow to 8,000 square feet — basically, the size of a Denny’s.
Okay, brave eagle man. How about you listen to this guy:
“America counts millions of Muslims amongst our citizens, and Muslims make an incredibly valuable contribution to our country,” he said. “Muslims are doctors, lawyers, law professors, members of the military, entrepreneurs, shopkeepers, moms and dads. And they need to be treated with respect. In our anger and emotion, our fellow Americans must treat each other with respect.”
Who said that?
President George W. Bush, when he visited the Islamic Center of Washington six days after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
“The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam,” Bush said as anti-Muslim sentiment began to percolate in a country devastated by the deaths of about 3,000 people. “That’s not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace. These terrorists don’t represent peace. They represent evil and war.”
Yet in the week since the Paris attacks, the American conversation has escalated with frightening and jaw-dropping speed to include registration of U.S. Muslims, internment camps, closed borders.
The tone is actually worse than it was after the Sept. 11 attacks on our own soil. Registration by religion? Sounds like Nazi Germany, not a country with a First Amendment that enshrines freedom of religion.
Why are we degenerating so quickly and so far from our country’s founding values? Because it’s an election year. And political leaders — egged on by the grandstanding and lies of Donald Trump — are peddling fear like it’s a miracle drug.
In communities across America, we are turning on each other, on the very neighbors who have been part of the fabric of our country for decades.
Fredericksburg was plastered with fliers that warned residents that they are about to be inundated with Syrian refugees.
“This means that hundreds of UN-VERIFIED and UN-SECURED Muslim MEN will be wandering your streets . . . ,” read the flier, which was reported in the Free Lance-Star.
Baloney. Not only are there no plans for any resettlement in Fredericksburg, the screening process for refugees to get into the United States takes 18 to 24 months. And the plan by the Obama administration to allow 10,000 Syrian refugees into our vast country translates to about 200 per state. I somehow doubt all of them will take to the quaint streets of Fredericksburg.
To be fair, it’s not just Virginia that is wallowing in this kind of intolerance.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) recently joined the herd of governors declaring that they will close their states’ borders to refugees. (It’s not something he or any other governor actually has the power to do, but, whatever, knock yourself out, Larry.)
In the midst of all this, a young Maryland man driving home from work spotted a woman with a flat tire stranded on the side of the road. She had an infant and a toddler with her. He stopped to help her and told her his name was Ali.
She asked whether he was Muslim. When he said yes, according to his widely circulated post on Facebook, the woman told him that she didn’t need help “from you people.”
This happened in Howard County — one of the most diverse, proudly inclusive places in the state, a county with the motto: “Choose Civility.”
The rhetoric dominating our nation right now is anything but civil. It’s time for all of us to put a stop to it.
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