Thursday, September 21, 2006

Brent Castillo: Don't Use Religion as Justification for Hate

The Wichita Eagle

We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.

President Bush raised some eyebrows last month when he spoke of fighting 'Islamic fascism.' Some Muslims were upset, including Parvez Ahmed, chairman of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, who said in an open letter to the president that the term 'contributes to a rising level of hostility to Islam and the American-Muslim community.'

In his Sept. 11 address, Bush toned down his description to 'perverted vision of Islam.'

I'm not a Muslim, but to me, either description seems appropriate.

The term 'fascism' was originally used by Italy's dictator, Benito Mussolini, in the 1930s and '40s, and exalted the state and race above the individual. In more recent usage, 'fascism' refers to autocratic or dictatorial control. When you combine the current usage with the fact that terrorists have justified their actions through their faith in Islam, then 'Islamic fascism' seems reasonable.

Islamic leaders such as Ahmed are rightly concerned about hostility, but his complaintswould carry more weight if the worldwide Muslim communityloudly condemned acts of terrorism and the fringe theology that condones them.

A good case study, on a much smaller scale, of how radical religion should be treated can be found here in Kansas. Fred Phelps, the Christian minister from Topeka, spews his hatred of homosexuals and our country wherever he can and to whomever he pleases. But he is roundly condemned by most Christians. Even people who agree with him in principle about the immorality of homosexuality are quick to criticize his methodology and rigid theology.

The Muslim community in Wichita has strongly condemned terrorism and the perversion of Islam. But the worldwide community needs to make a concerted, unified effort to marginalize and shrink the radical elements within its faith. Until then, the complaints about using the fascist label likely won't carry much weight with many non-Muslims.

Religion should be used to make a positive change in people. I chose Christianity because I believe its teachings are true. Millions of others have chosen Islam for the same reason. We may disagree, but we shouldn't use our faith as a justification to hate or hurt others.

Author Jonathan Swift made a wise point when he acknowledged a potential shortcoming of faith:

'We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.'

Let's not use religion as a justification for hate. And let's not stand by as others pervert faith, using hatred for their own gain.


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