Our Opinion: Back Muslim efforts to fight fear, prejudice

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We've come a long way since President George W. Bush's visit to a mosque in the aftermath of the al-Qaida attacks of September 11 where he declared "Islam is peace." A long way in the wrong direction.

The anti-Muslim prejudice percolating for years has erupted into a full-blown hysteria, fueled by among others, Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump, who has suggested a ban on foreign Muslims entering the U.S.; Ben Carson, who doesn't think a Muslim should be allowed to become president; and Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz, both of whom believe the U.S. should weed out Muslim refugees from Syria and accept only Christians. The attacks by gun-wielding terrorists in Paris and San Bernadino have contributed to the mania.

Concerned about the scapegoating, American Muslim leaders from several organizations met in Washington, D.C., on Monday to launch a campaign against it. Americans, citizens of a melting-pot nation whose ancestors may have confronted similar prejudice, should support them.

Muslims make up just 1 percent of the U.S. population and only two members of Congress, both House Democrats, are Muslims. There is no political advantage in speaking on their behalf in the face of scapegoating because, as Salam Al-Marayati, the executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council said this week in RealClearPolitics, elected officials "fear attacks from right-wing blogs, pundits and talk shows."

The persistent assertion that President Obama is a Muslim by Obama-haters speaks to this prejudice as well. The Obama dead-enders have apparently forgotten their outrage of 2008 over the controversial statements of the president's former Chicago pastor Jeremiah Wright, a member of the United Church of Christ and not a Muslim, but their criticism cruelly implies that there is something inherently wrong with being a Muslim.

The Muslim leaders plan open houses in mosques to educate Americans about their religion and will conduct voter registration drives to involve more Muslims in politics. They promise to counter recruitment efforts among American Muslims by ISIS. Americans, especially Catholics and members of other religious groups that have endured similar prejudice, can support them by speaking out against the lies and ignorance that poison public discourse.


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