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Sep 20, 2018
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Liana Whitehead

Tolerance now a foreign concept

Liana Whitehead

In the days following the intentional, ill-willed attacks at the U.S. embassy in Libya, violent anti-American protests continued outside the doors of many U.S. embassies, including our headquarters in Yemen and Cairo. As most of us may know, the initial attack on our Libya embassy left four Americans dead, including our ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens.

These four lives were taken in the name of Islam as overseas Muslims found offense in an independent film, “Innocence of Muslims.” The film openly mocked Islam and its Prophet Muhammad by portraying him as perverted and piggish. It was produced and introduced by a California resident, Israeli-American Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, according to Al Jazeera, the English version of an Arab news company.

In midst of the absurd violence, Americans were not the only people killed or injured by Islamic protestors. In a New York Times article, it stated that 500 Iranians screaming “Death to America!” were reported outside the Swiss Embassy, which deals with U.S. diplomatic interests. Protests like these resulted in the deaths and injuries of civilians in places such as Yemen and Cairo.

In an article published Sunday by Reuters, it said that the extremists have spread to Europe. It stated that an Iranian religious foundation increased the reward for the capture and murder of British novelist Salman Rushdie. Rushdie has no involvement in “Innocence of Muslims,” but was targeted by Muslims in 1989 for his book, “The Satanic Verses,” which faced the accusation that it was anti-Muhammad. Today, because of the recent events, the reward for Rushdie’s murder is $3.3 million – $500,000 higher than the 1980s bid. Rushdie even described the video as “idiotic” and “a piece of garbage,” but this was not enough to please those who, if given the choice, would do away with a nation of nonbelievers.

America’s response to these terroristic protests should be one of relentlessness and disgust, for our country is indeed under attack. Though the rocket blast that mercilessly took the lives of innocent people happened overseas, it was done with cruel intentions and in genuine hate toward the Americans and those who openly denounce Islam.

I watched the film in its entirety, and while I admit it was degrading and distasteful, it does not represent American values and ideals as a whole. Individuals who simply could not keep their hate to themselves created it in poor taste.

This is something that continuously occurs around the globe, yet receives little or no attention. Every religion faces persecution in light of what we, as individuals, believe to be true. Apparently, Christianity is a widely accepted belief among Americans — so why am I persecuted and judged on a daily basis for following Christianity? The religion on which our country was founded is now hated by many, and is openly criticized in the media and in schools and government. People from all faiths are condemned and criticized in every society, so why did this film strike such a nasty chord in the Middle East?

This is why we call for religious tolerance in America. Free will is an innate right that, unfortunately, isn’t recognized or practiced by the entire world. But in the United States, we realize that a country led under one religion is bound to cause chaos comparable to the catastrophe overseas.

I want to emphasize the word tolerance. Tolerance is rooted in Latin and Greek, and literally means to bear or endure something. Religious tolerance does not equal religious acceptance. It seems Americans today often blend the two together, as if we have to admit that a different religion could also be true. But this is not so. Tolerance is necessary to “keep the peace,” and the Constitution only states that we shall be free to choose what we believe — not that we must like or agree with others. We are simply called to respect the fact that they share the inherent rights — but we do not have to accept, believe, acknowledge or support another religion.

Similar discussions have raised questions concerning the Islamic faith and what it truly entails. Now, because I am not a Muslim, and I have little knowledge of what present-day Muslims actually practice, I cannot validate or disprove anything. And, due to the said differences between regular and radical Islam, I am often confused by what the religion involves.

After Sept. 11, 2001, President George W. Bush “characterized Islam as a religion of peace,” according to an online article from National Public Radio. “But others,” NPR stated, “counter that the roots of Islam include violent leaders, teachings and Scripture.” Because of this, it is difficult to comprehend the grounds on which Muslim terrorists justify themselves.

As an American citizen, I am understandably horrified and deeply repulsed by the recent events in the Middle East. I am out to prove one thing: Americans are the immediate targets of the religious war that has unfolded. Protestors are chanting with animosity in their hearts and with the conviction that America has collectively shunned Islam. It is vital that our country bands together in a time when we are targeted as hateful because of an amateur video, which was apparently offensive enough to kill and die for. And, as for our Cairo embassy’s letter of apology to the perpetrators, it was weak and unnecessary. The statement released by the United States on Tuesday, the anniversary of Sept. 11, read:

“The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims — as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.”

In this statement, our representatives apologized for our abuse of our right to free speech, and for hurting the feelings of Islamic followers — outrageous, to say the least. Not only was the film created by a few select individuals, but it the subjective opinion of those involved, which is protected under our Constitution. Cairo’s statement implies that America, as a whole, is apologetic for our ignorant and “misguided” individuals. It is almost as if the statement was released in hopes of curving the protestors’ hate and preventing another attack. So, our embassies were under siege and our representatives were killed due to hurt feelings? It is all part of a bigger picture.

Tactless expressions of ignorant opinions don’t kill people. People kill people.

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