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Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Let's Focus on our Common Traits, Not our Differences

I recently read an article about some Muslims, both everyday people and imams, in France and Italy who attended Sunday Mass in solidarity with Christians. Some Jewish worshippers also attended.

In this time of deep religious divides and religion-fueled terrorism, this simple act has really touched me. Muslims are at last speaking out against those who are using a corrupted version of their religion to slaughter others. By standing together with others who share their belief in one God, these brave people are not only speaking out against the actions of Islamic terrorists. They also are showing the world that they will not tolerate having their religion highjacked by radicals, thereby painting all Muslims as terrorists in the minds of some.

I got into an argument on Facebook a while ago with a friend of a friend who accused me of condoning terrorism because I have a Muslim friend. My friend is no more of a terrorist than I am. She was born in Germany to Turkish parents, now lives in Turkey, is not religious at all, speaks three languages and works in tourism. Do you see anything in this description that makes her a terrorist?  And exactly how does my having a Muslim friend equate to my condoning of terrorism? I also have friends who are Jewish, Christian, agnostic and Buddhist. What terrible things must that mean?

Islamic terrorists no more represent mainstream Islam than members of the Westboro Baptist Church represent mainstream Christianity. Both groups are using corrupted versions of their holy books to attack others, either physically or verbally. Both groups need to be denounced by those of the same faith. How about starting with the Baptist organizations insisting that the Westboro 'church' stop calling itself Baptist? How about all people of faith condemning and denouncing the radical fringes of their religion?

I hope that more people take up this practice of attending worship services of other religions. It is a small step in beginning to bridge the gap between religions, reach across religious divides and hopefully start to ease some of the suspicions of others who are 'different' in their beliefs.  

We need to stop focusing on how we are different -- Christian or Muslim, black or white, police or not police, Democrat or Republican -- and focus on the things we share. It doesn't matter what our skin color or religion is. Aren't we all after the same thing -- freedom, safety, the ability to live our lives in peace, and to pursue our dreams for ourselves and our families?