I have a hard time understanding how some people in the US, in particular the religious right, can be religiously intolerant. The religious right of the founders' time were the ones who wanted religious neutrality from the Government.
I have a problem with people like the one who wrote in the Guestbook at ane exhibit on Jewish Soldiers in the Civil War at Ford's Theatre:
"You can't be a good American unless you are Christian."
I had to respond: "Sorry, but the United States is supposed to be religiously neutral. It doesn't matter what religion a person is, they can be a good American."
I found Naveed Ali Shah's blog when I was trying to learn what went down at Fort Hood. He's a public affairs specialist in the Army who has been deployed for the past 4 months. He is stationed stateside at Fort hood and his wife and child are there now. I watch his blog to see what is going on from a Soldier's point of view.
General George Casey said that “Our diversity, not only in our Army, but in our country, is a strength. And as horrific as this tragedy was, if our diversity becomes a casualty, I think that’s worse.”
People need to understand that this was the action of one man and that Islam is one of the world's major religions and is the predominant religion in much of Africa, the Middle East and major parts of Asia. But muslims can come from anywhere. Americans have the misconception that all Muslims are Arabs and that all Arabs are Muslims. In fact, less than 20 percent of the Muslims in the world are Arab, and all Arab countries have populations that believe in other religions. The nation with the world's largest Islamic population is Indonesia -- 88 percent of its 280 million people are Muslims.
In the United States, Islam is the fastest growing religion, a trend fueled mostly by immigration. There are 5 million to 7 million Muslims in the United States. They make up between 10,000 and 20,000 members of the American military.
The word Islam is a homograph, having multiple meanings, and a triliteral of the word salaam, which directly translates as peace. Other meanings include submission, or the total surrender of oneself to God.
But some people prefer ignorance to the light.
Another muslim soldier, Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, moved Colin Powell to say:
It was a photo essay about troops who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay was of a mother in Arlington Cemetery, and she had her head on the headstone of her son's grave. And as the picture focused in, you could see the writing on the headstone. And it gave his awards--Purple Heart, Bronze Star--showed that he died in Iraq, gave his date of birth, date of death. He was 20 years old. And then, at the very top of the headstone, it didn't have a Christian cross, it didn't have the Star of David, it had crescent and a star of the Islamic faith. And his name was Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, and he was an American. He was born in New Jersey. He was 14 years old at the time of 9/11, and he waited until he can go serve his country, and he gave his life. Now, we have got to stop polarizing ourself in this way.
The problem is that The American Family Association, a right wing Christian group is calling for no more Muslims in the military. I'd like to think that groups of this sort don't have much sway, but...
The problem is that the US is supposed to be religiously neutral. Article VI of the Constitution states that: "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."
To prevent Muslims from Serivng in the US forces is unconstitutional. Moreover, we have to remember this from the Treaty of Tripoli, ratified by the U.S. Senate in 1797.
Art. 11. As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.
Somehow that sentiment has been lost with the passing of time, which is a shame since the US should not demonise 1/5 the world's population.
I realise that the next passage was written by George Washington about the Jews, but it applies to all religions
The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.
It would be inconsistent with the frankness of my character not to avow that I am pleased with your favorable opinion of my Administration, and fervent wishes for my felicity. May the Children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and figtree, and there shall be none to make him afraid. May the father of all mercies scatter light and not darkness in our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in his own due time and way everlastingly happy.
President John Tyler wrote in an 1843 letter:
"The United States have adventured upon a great and noble experiment, which is believed to have been hazarded in the absence of all previous precedent -- that of total separation of Church and State. No religious establishment by law exists among us. The conscience is left free from all restraint and each is permitted to worship his Maker after his own judgment. The offices of the Government are open alike to all. No tithes are levied to support an established Hierarchy, nor is the fallible judgment of man set up as the sure and infallible creed of faith. The Mohammedan, if he will to come among us would have the privilege guaranteed to him by the constitution to worship according to the Koran; and the East Indian might erect a shrine to Brahma, if it so pleased him. Such is the spirit of toleration inculcated by our political Institutions."
Ultimately, we must keep in mind what Army Chaplain (Capt.) Abdul-Rasheed Muhammad said regarding the need for understanding that their fellow soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen who are Muslim are just like they are non-muslims. "It's important for all of us to see ourselves as coming from the same origin," he said. "It's too easy for people to get off on what's different.
"People have a way of just being people," he continued. "That nature God has already put into us. There's not one Polish nature or Italian nature or Muslim nature or Christian nature. It's just human nature. When people get to the essence of what makes us who we are, then that's what binds us together.
"The Koran says that God created us different nations and tribes that we may come to know each other, not that we should hate or despise each other."