By now there's a good chance that you've heard the story of Farris Hassan, the 16 year old Florida boy who traveled to Iraq to see firsthand what was going on. He was taking a class in immersion journalism and took it a bit more seriously than most. There was one passage from news stories which disturbed me, though:
Diving headfirst into an assignment, Farris, whose parents were born in Iraq but have lived in the United States for about 35 years, hung out at a local mosque.
The teen, who said he has no religious affiliation, added that he even spent an entire night until 6 a.m. talking politics with a group of Muslim men, a level of "immersion" his teacher characterized as dangerous and irresponsible.
Let's reword that a little bit to see just how appalling that is:
Diving headfirst into an assignment, Farris, whose parents were born in the USA but have lived in China for about 35 years, hung out at a local church.
The teen, who said he has no religious affiliation, added that he even spent an entire night until 6 a.m. talking politics with a group of Christian men, a level of "immersion" his teacher characterized as dangerous and irresponsible.
So hanging out at a house of worship and talking to believers is "dangerous and irresponsible"? I certainly hope the teacher's words were taken out of context because it is attitudes like this which are causing so many problems. The vast majority of Muslims are like the vast majority of Christians: peaceful. Unfortunately, people take quotes from the Qu'ran which can seem just as violent as many quotes from the Bible and claim that the Qu'ran teaches Muslims to be violent. This is rubbish.
Islam, like Christianity, has a long history of both violence and peace. Religion, in this context, is akin to a gun. People point to the tool and forget that it must be wielded. If you took away Muslim's religion, many would simply find different tools to accomplish their goals.
There are many Muslims today who hate the West but I submit this is because the West has long failed to accept any responsibility for our behavior in the Middle East. We've worked hard to keep many nations in poverty to ensure that they do not become rivals and many of those nations happen to be Muslim. Unfortunately, rather than try to unravel the Gordian knot of historical grievances in the area, many people are content to adopt simplistic and frequently incorrect attitudes such as "they hate freedom" or "Islam teaches violence". People have always found it easier to chant slogans than to think.