Stop Hate 2000 Newsletter August, 2010

Will’s father commented about how difficult school is for queer students. “Most parents worry about if they make a grade, make a team, or do things like that. When we sent Willi to school, we worried that it would be the last time we would see him.” Stated in interview in the documentary movie Anti-Gay Hate Crime: A & E Investigative Reports. Available from Amazon.Com and Amazon.Ca.
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The situation in Iraq is problematic for the coalition forces, as well as for the Iraqi Government. The conflict and instability in Iraq is a political liability for the coalition governments. Years after the coalition invasion, Iraq is very unstable. Minority groups can be at more significant risk when there is political, or economic instability.

Reports of human rights abuses and violence targeting sexual minorities is a real concern in Iraq. Some of the stories coming from Iraq are deeply disturbing to read. The headline of an article on the Pink News web site states Iraq is the most dangerous place on the earth for gay people. According to the author, Iraq is even more dangerous than Iran. The article makes reference to “hundreds” of gay, lesbian, and trans-identified people being hunted down and killed. We gather physicians have confirmed cases of gay men who had their anuses glued shut by members of the militia. Sexual minorities attempting to seek refugee status in the United Kingdom have had difficultly doing that.

An Amnesty International report provides additional insight into the situation in Iraq. According to the Amnesty International report, clerics have encouraged people to attack people suspected of being homosexual. Unfortunately, the violence targets more than sexual minorities. Religious and ethnic minorities, women, and girls appear to be most highly at risk.

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Canadian Time magazine for August 30, 2010 carries the bold title “Is America Islamophobic?” The question is important to answer in light of the very strong reactions against a plan to build an Islamic center and mosque within a few blocks of the World Trade Center, where a terrorist attack by extremists Muslims resulted in the death of about 3,000 people. This commentary will trampoline off the title “Is America Islamophobic?” Opinions expressed in the commentary are not presented in the Time article.

Traumatizing wounds, and resentments caused by old wars last a long time. Tensions between ethnic groups in the former Yugoslavia have a long history. A case can be made that there are a few north-south tensions remaining over 150 years after the American Civil War ended.

The wounds of the American war on terrorism remain. And those wounds are deep. Video clips of the Towers on fire and of people jumping from the Towers to their death are engraved in the minds of Americans. Just as many Americans can tell you exactly where they were when President Kennedy was shot, many Americans can tell you exactly where they were when they learned of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

The terrorist acts that destroyed the World Trade Center showed Americans that they were vulnerable to terrorism. The United States wanted to bring those guilty to justice. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were justified as part of a war on terrorism. Every week, American soldiers die in the ongoing wars on terrorism. The constant loss of life helps keep the wounds very fresh. Unfortunately, some Americans blame the deaths of young American soldiers on Islamic people.

In a climate of such fear and deep hurt, comes a proposal to build an Islamic cultural center and mosque a few blocks from where the World Trade Center was located. Plans to build an Islamic center so close to Ground Zero might have been naively insensitive. While the plan was not palatable to many average Americans, the plan was not evil.

Fear of more terrorism and of the unknown causes some people to respond to neutral events with anger. The resulting anti-Islamic anger could be making American feel unsafe to some patriotic Islamic Americans. Just as a few Islamic terrorists used religion to support their political aims, some American political and religious leaders are using religion to support their political aims. Fear can mobilize a sizable body of political party volunteers, as well as attract voters to candidates they feel will ensure they are safe. The current tensions are likely to result in unscrupulous political leaders lashing out at Islamic Americans in an attempt to attract frightened voters. Conservative political and religious leaders used fear of gay people to justify opposing gay human rights, and protection of gay people in hate crimes legislation. Oppression of minority groups is a formula that has proven politically popular and expedient for generations.

Are Americans Islamophobic? The simple answer is “yes.” Unfortunately, bad questions often give us faulty answers. A better question is, “Are people afraid of the unknown?” Fear of the unknown is a universal. The question those of us who oppose hate crimes need to ponder is, “How can we we reduce fear?” Islamphobia will cause some Islamic Americans into the closet. When Islam is closeted, distortions of Islam can easily be promoted, and the climate of fear increases. At a time when Americans most need to dialogue with Muslims, closet doors will prevent honest and open sharing.

The reality is moderate and liberal Islamic Americans probably have far more to fear from radical, extremist Islam than Christian or Jewish Americans. They have to fear hate, prejudice, and discrimination from outside and inside Islam.

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Bilerico carries the story of Abdollahi, a young gay man. We gather he has been in the United States for twenty years. He faces being deported to Iran, where he could be executed for being gay.

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The Presbyterian church, USA, at its General Assembly, voted to allow gay clergy to have partners. Previously, gay pastors were required to be celibate. Evidently, the decision must be ratified by the member presbyteries. An article about the vote can be read on 365gay.com.


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