Skip to main content

By Heather Weaver, Staff Attorney, ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief

"While there was no large-scale communal violence against religious minorities during the reporting period, attacks on...Muslims and their places of worship continued, along with incidences of intolerance..."

Pop quiz! To which country does the above quotation refer: (a) India; (b) the United States; or (c) both India and the United States? Technically, the answer is "(a) India," which is now on the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom's watch list as a country in need of "close monitoring due to the nature and extent of violations of religious freedom engaged in or tolerated by the governments." Of course, in light of the rash of anti-Muslim sentiment and activities across the United States in recent months, no one would have faulted you had you chosen "b" or "c."

As Americans, we have long regarded our country as a bastion of religious freedom. The earliest colonial settlers arrived here seeking refuge from religious persecution, and by enshrining the principle of religious liberty in the Bill of Rights, the Founders hoped to save their future countrymen from similar torment. Priding ourselves on this history, we have held our country up as a paragon of religious diversity and tolerance, and indeed, via instruments like the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, declared ourselves a moral authority on the matter. Yet, a survey of the recent treatment of Muslims across the country suggests otherwise.

The Constitution's protection of religious exercise extends to people of all faiths, but with recent attacks on Muslims and the Islamic faith, it would be easy to surmise, mistakenly, that they are somehow excluded from this American promise of religious liberty. While the controversy over the planned Park 51 community center in New York City has played out on center stage in recent months, Muslims in no fewer than 12 states have faced similarly strident opposition to their efforts to build mosques and Islamic centers. And unlike in New York City, where both the local Landmarks Preservation Commission and Mayor Michael Bloomberg have rejected a baseless campaign to block construction of the proposed community center, government officials in some areas of the country have yielded to religious bigotry.

In Mayfield,  Kentucky, for example, in response to community outcry, the town's Board of Zoning Adjustment reversed its initial approval of a permit to hold Muslim prayer services in a rented commercial space, citing purported parking concerns. Few, if any, opponents of the New York City community center, who claim that their objections are based solely on its proximity to Ground Zero, have spoken out against this kind of anti-Muslim effort in other states.

Of course, even where the local government stands strongly in support of constitutional protections for Muslims, America's promise of religious freedom for all can hardly be realized if Muslims continue to suffer persecution at the hands of private citizens, who seek to intimidate them into foregoing the exercise of those constitutional rights.

Opponents of a proposed mosque in Temecula, California, picketed local Muslim prayer services, bringing along dogs in a misguided effort to offend those worshippers who consider dogs to be ritually unclean. Some opponents of proposed mosques have gone so far as to say that they believe being a practicing Muslim in America today is no less than an act of treason. The American Family Association, an evangelical organization, declared recently: "Permits should not be granted to build even one more mosque in the United States of America, let alone the monstrosity planned for Ground Zero. This is for one simple reason: Each Islamic mosque is dedicated to the overthrow of the American government." Similarly, protestors at the Park 51 site brandished signs stating, "Everything I ever needed to know about Islam I learned on 9/11," a common anti-Muslim sentiment in recent months, while a church in Gainesville, Florida is proposing a Koran-burning event on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks

Let's be clear, those protesting Park 51 and other proposed mosques are entitled to their opinions and we support their right to express them. However, no matter how loud the opposition gets, our government must stand firmly on the side of religious freedom and protect everyone's right to worship, or not, according to their beliefs.

What is not protected, however, are violence and criminal acts. Unfortunately, as anti-Muslim bigotry has intensified across the nation, so too has violence against Muslims and their houses of worship. Since the Rutherford County Commission approved plans to build an Islamic community center in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, local Muslims have been threatened, and two weekends ago, someone set fire to construction equipment at the site where the center will be built.  In New York, a cab driver was stabbed because he identified himself as Muslim. And just last week, a group of teenagers in Carlton, New York, were arrested after they drove by a mosque hurling obscenities at worshipers during evening prayer, sideswiped a worshiper with their car, and fired a shotgun.

Criminal acts of religious intolerance only serve to distance us even further from the Founders' vision of America as a refuge for people of all faiths.  If we are to reverse course and heal the injury inflicted on the Muslim community recently, we have to start in our own backyards. We must demand that our local governments respect and honor Muslims' constitutional rights to religious exercise. We must stand up to friends, family, and neighbors when they are tempted to succumb to fear and religious prejudice. Only then, will we restore our honor, truly realize America's promise of religious freedom for all, and serve as a shining example of religious tolerance and freedom to the rest of the world.

Originally posted to ACLU on Wed Sep 08, 2010 at 12:49 PM PDT.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  You are gratuitously spreading (0+ / 0-)
    anti-Hindu propaganda. You have it backwards on who is getting religiously persecuted in India. Here is the latest Muslim aggression against Hindus (in West Bengal, where Muslims from a majority in many areas):

    Tuesday, September 7, 2010

    Deganga Burns - Hindu Temples Descecrated; Hindu Markets Looted

    HINDU TEMPLES DESECRATED,

    MARKETS LOOTED

    POLICE OFFICER INJURED AT DEGANGA

    September 6, 2010 : Today evening after Iftar, Muslims assembled in the Deganga Mosque (Basirhat SD, North 24 Parganas) and proceeded to a number of Hindu areas, looted and ransacked many Hindu shops and Hindu temples, severely beat up many Hindus, torched 4 public buses. The life of the whole stretch from Berachapa to Kadamgachi has been frozen.

    Shani Temple of Kartickpur and Kali Temple of Deganga Biplabi Colony desecrated and ransacked by the rioting Muslims.

    Arup Ghosh, Officer in Charge of Deganga police station is seriously injured by the rampaging Muslims. His head and hand have been fractured. Several other policemen also injured. Police had to fire to control the Muslim mob, but with no effect.

    Today at 11 am, the dispute started when some fanatic Muslims started to dig the passage of a Durga Temple in Chattal Pally village which is situated just beside the Deganga Police Station. This Durga Temple is at least 25 year old. In past, Muslims tried many times to stop the Durgapuja. Hindus resisted their ill effort. This Chattal Pally and Deganga P.S. come under the district of North 24 Parganas, and its Parliamentary constituency is Basirhat. In 2009 election, Hazi Nurul Islam of T.M.C. won this constituency defeating long time Communist M.P. Ajay Chakraborty (C.P.I). After this change of power, Hindus of the whole area are facing all types of threat, humiliation, torture and their religious practices are in danger.

    When Hindus objected the digging of the Temple passage, Muslims gathered there in large number and started mayhem. Hindus informed the police. Police came and they had to face the jihadi enthusiasm of the Muslims. Officer in Charge injured at that time. Then Muslims threatened that now Roja is going on. After the end of Roja and taking Iftar, they will teach stern lesson to the Hindus. So, after afternoon, Hindus dared not to open their shops on the stretch between Berachapa to Kadamgachhi on the Barasat - Basirhat Road. By this time, large contingent of police and RAF took position. Defying their presence, Muslims gathered in large number in the Deganga Mosque and started looting and destroying the Hindu shops, not in Chattal Pally, but in the big markets of Beliaghata, Deganga and Kartickpur. A big shop of Anil Bangal, a Hindu, has been looted fully among many other shops. Anil Bangal has been seriously injured. More than 25 people have been injured.


    UPDATE DEGANGA

    The situation has been worsened today morning, Muslims again attacked the Hindus at Beliaghata and Kartickpur. Temple destruction and looting of Hindu houses and shops are going on in massive scale.

    Today morning Muslims destroyed Khejurdanga Durgamandap, Changdana Shiv Temple, Kartickpur Kali Temple and several other Hindu temples.

    The Hindu shops of Beliaghata market have been looted. Grocery shop of Jhantu Biswas at Kartickpur bus stand has been looted totally.

    Houses of Tarun Bhowmik, Kuntal Das, Kalyan Dutta and many others have been looted and ransacked.

    Muslims are threatening that tonight they will enjoy all Hindu women.

    All these happened in front of police and RAF (Rapid Action Force).

    It is reported that RAF fled from the area leaving the hapless Hindus at the mercy of the rampaging Muslims. So, Muslims are looting and destroying unhindered.


    Tuesday, September 7, 2010
    LATEST FROM DEGANGA

    LATEST NEWS - CHIEF MINISTER TOLD THE MEDIA THAT HIS POLICE FAILED TO CONTROL THE SITUATION AND ARMY HAS BEEN DEPLOYED. BUT BY THIS TIME SEVERAL CASUALTIES, MOLESTATION AND RAPE OCCURRED. BELIAGHATA MARKET TOTALLY DEVASTATED. AT LEAST 250 HINDU SHOPS LOOTED AND BURNT. POLICE AND RAF MUTE SPECTATOR.

    HS SUPPORTERS ARE DEMONSTRATING AT BANGAON, GAIGHATA AND OTHER PLACES. THOUSANDS OF HINDUS JOINED THE DEMONSTRATION AT BANGAON.


    Wednesday, September 8, 2010
    NO RESPITE DESPITE ARMY PRESENCE

    NO RESPITE DESPITE ARMY PRESENCE. TODAY MORNING AGAIN MUSLIMS ARE ATTACKING DIFFERENT HINDU VILLAGES AROUND KARTICKPUR AWAY FROM THE MAIN ROAD.

    HINDU WOMEN ARE FLEEING FROM BISWANATHPUR TOWARDS KARTICKPUR AS A LARGE MUSLIM MOB IS PROCEEDING FROM DOGACHHIA SIDE. POLICE IS TOTALLY HELPLESS. SEVERAL RAF PERSONNEL HAVE BEEN SEVERELY BEATEN UP BY THE MUSLIMS. EVEN ARMY IS UNABLE TO STOP THE MUSLIM MOB.

    "KHEJURDANGA KARMAKAR PARA" VILLAGE JUST NOW BURNT. IT IS 2 KM. INSIDE FROM THE MAIN ROAD. ARMY IS NOT GOING THERE.

    WOMEN ARE SCARED. ARMY IS NOT GOING INSIDE AS THEIR NUMBER IS TOO SMALL, ONLY ABOUT 200

    SITUATION EXTREMELY WORSE. HINDUS ARE WAITING FOR MASSACRE. ALL SIDES ARE BLOCKED BY THE MUSLIMS. NO ROUTE TO ESCAPE.

    Sorry about the CAPs, as I am copying and pasting from the Hindu Samhati blog that is tracking these developments.

    Is the ACLU going to get the backs of the Hindus that are under attack, or are you going to continue to falsely smear Hindus?

    India and America share a mutually beneficial trade and economic relationship.

    by iceweasel on Thu Sep 09, 2010 at 05:51:05 AM PDT

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site