Our parish has a new priest. He's from Nigeria. After a special prayer for 9/11 at Mass, he gave a statement from a Nigerian perspective. That, itself, was worth a post. But he also said that he met with Muslim leaders the week before, and they assured him that they were scared to death. Cowering in the shadows, in fear of their lives. That got me to thinking, as I am wont to do.
I can't speak for all the violence across America we've heard about. I've heard for weeks now that violence is breaking out all over the place. I haven't seen any actual stories, except the attack on the cab driver in New York and the arson in Tennessee.
But this is different. I live here, grew up here, and have been in this part of the country for the last ten years. After 9/11, there were stories of Mosques being vandalized, and some graffiti. But that's been about it. The only violence directed at religion has been a rash of church vandalism and fires, and a priest who was murdered a couple years ago. Other than that, nothing.
So why do so many Muslim leaders in our city fear for their lives? Even if the rest of America is going bat crazy and attacking Muslims left and right, they aren't here. Why fear?
And I thought of this. Could it be a combination? First, Americans are pretty hard on ourselves. For a host of reasons, many groups in America like to hash, trash, and rehash the rehashed trash over America's sins. Anything today is seen in the worst possible light, and every event of the past replayed in the worst way. Have Muslims, particularly immigrants, just accepted it as true that America is nothing but a horrible, genocidal racist bigoted nation of death and murder? And therefore naturally see anything as a step toward the inevitable American Death Camps? Why wouldn't they? Americans are the ones who say it!
In addition to that, could it also be that Muslims are not used to criticism. In America, until the 90s, most Americans didn't give a rip about Islam one way or another. Except for some Chuck Norris movies where the Muslims were the bad guys, we didn't pay much attention. Other than Israel and its plight of course. Even after the first world Trade Center bombing, and even after the first Gulf War, we were far more interested in our own failings and scoring political points than thinking too much about Islam. But 9/11 changed that, and suddenly a whole lot of folks had opinions about Islam.
Since American Muslims hadn't heard much criticism (perhaps experienced discrimination or making fun of at best), this was new to them. Especially since, let's face it, criticizing Islam in Islamic countries is not a favorite pastime. After all, when was the last time a Muslim in an interview went back and accounted for the centuries of warfare, conquest, and atrocities committed by Muslims? So perhaps it's the double edged fear of not being used to hearing outward criticisms of Islam, coupled with America's tendency to present our country in the worst possible light. I know that would make me wonder if I was new to the place.