Maybe its just a wild coincidence, but most of the Muslim people Ive
ever met have been remarkably gentle and considerate.
Not a terrorist among them.
There was Darla, a college friend of Arabic descent from Dearborn who
aspired to a career in journalism. A mysterious beauty with a sense of
dignity and style, I cant imagine she ever thought of a side career
There were the Chaldean shop-owners along Woodward Avenue in Detroit
who always had a smile and time to talk, even though they were being
driven out of business by urban blight.
Theres Esam, an Egyptian guide and scuba instructor who radiates good
vibes with a smile to match. He remains a Facebook friend, sharing
news from the Nile.
I also have a friend of Syrian descent. Dont know if hes a Muslim,
but you never can tell, because his kindness, smile and friendly ways
indicate that he just might be from a culture where such things are
And there were scores of people who welcomed me as a lone American
walking down their streets in Morocco, Egypt, Bahrain, India and
Malaysia -- Muslims all, sharing smiles and their equivalent of how
Islamaphobes, get a clue. Muslims are people just like us whose
primary concerns are their families, friends and making a living.
One of the things Ive found in common with the Muslims Ive met is
that none of us would ever dream of bothering anyone with our
religious views, much less the idea of converting an infidel or
launching a global jihad.
Can you imagine, for instance, declaring yourself a militant
Presbyterian to all comers and demanding that non-believers bow to the
16th century teachings of Scotsman John Knox or burn at the stake?
Thats sort of the wacky idea some of us have about Muslims, with the
proof being citations of world conquest found written in the Koran
by camel-riding Arabs 1,300 years ago. The reality is that the average
Muslim citizen of the world grasps the Koran in the same way that
half-hearted Christians understand the Bible: as a dusty collection of
tribal folk lore and fairy tales that doesnt have a whole lot to do
with whats going on here in the 21st century.
If anything, Ive gotten the sense from Muslim people Ive met in
foreign lands that they are rather irritated and imprisoned by the
religious police and demands of their theocratic countries and would
just as soon be free of the burden of religion; especially the
month-long dawn-to-dusk fast of Ramadan, which many will tell you is a
huge pain in the ass.
What we lack in America is perspective on people from other countries,
be they Mexicans, Muslims, Slovakians, Mongolians or Lapplanders. Most
of what we know of the world comes to us through a television screen,
and our media is obsessed with demonizing foreigners.
Do we get a well-rounded view of the world from watching shows such as
24, Die Hard or Hostel, where every foreigner is a lunatic in the mode
of Snidely Whiplash?
Our nightly news is also prone to presenting only the scariest images
of countries beyond Americas horizon. What we get from the news is
that there are car bombs going off everywhere, along with hordes of
machete-waving maniacs. What we dont get from CNN, FOX, ABC or MSNBC
is that most of the world is about as dangerous as downtown Petoskey
and that you can travel for tens of thousands of miles without the
hope of glimpsing even a single maniac with a machete.
What we do have, however, is a few bad apples who tend to have one
thing in common: religious extremism.
The lunatic plan to burn the Koran on 9/11, stirring up their
extremist counterparts overseas come to mind, as do the so-called
patriots in our country who want to replace the U.S. Constitution with
Isnt it unfortunate that these are the typical Americans that
Muslim people see on their own biased news networks, or in the
propaganda efforts of groups such as al Qaeda or the Taliban?
Isnt it unfortunate that the next terrorist attack on America will be
courtesy of religious extremists, yet it will be ordinary Christians,
Muslims, Jews and people who don‘t give a rip about religion at all
who will pay the price?