One of the hallmarks of the United States is religious toleration. Our founding fathers ensured that the wall between church and state was strong and firm; they went to great lengths to ensure that all were able to practice their religion. While by in large Christians, the founders of our nation wished to ensure that all, regardless of their belief could practice it without fear of persecution. The attitude of the founders of our nation was in stark contrast to the nation of Europe, where state religion and suspicion and persecution of dissenting religions was the norm.This is not to say the United States is perfect. Many religions have found it tough to gain acceptance in our nation. We have gone through periods in our history where Catholics, Mormons, and other religions have been persecuted by individuals or groups. As a nation, however we have clung to the belief in religious toleration, that is until now.
In recent weeks the likes of Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck have raised the specter of horror that an Islamic Center will be built within in two blocks of the ground zero in New York City. Politicians of all ideologies have joined their call to halt what they believe is desecration of sacred ground. Their shrill voices of intolerance have drowned out the voices of reason on this issue.
I do not know whether Islam is a religion of peace or violence—I have only limited contact with it and have not studied it in detail. I believe like Judaism and Christianity that it can be both peaceful and violent depending on ones understanding of the its holy texts.
I do know that the reaction towards the Islamic Center had put on display the worst of the American Character. I also know that the shrill voices opposed to the Islamic Center do not represent the views of most Americans, rather the noise they are creating is drowning out the voices of reason.
Whether they understand or not, those in opposition to the Islamic Center give aid and comfort to our enemies as they reinforce the notion that the United States is the great Satan.