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It's a Gray Area: Muslim Americans deserve our understanding

December 03, 2011|By James P. Gray

Recently I attended a fundraising dinner for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, at the Anaheim Hilton Hotel.

This stimulating and uplifting event involved more than 1,800 mostly Muslim people celebrating the theme of "Making Democracy Work." Had you been there, you would have been just as proud of these loyal Americans as I was.

The program was based upon the fact that a real and common enemy of us all continues to be fear, intolerance and ignorance. And in fact the enemy of radical Muslims is not so much America as it is moderate Muslims, and other moderates all around the world.

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Many of the Muslim speakers went on to say that, "We don't want sharia law either!"

And if you think about it, that makes perfect sense. Their common greeting of Assalamu Alaykum, or "May Peace Be Upon You," is further evidence of that fact. (This statement should not be confused with Allah Akbar, which I understand to mean, "God is the Greatest," and which has sometimes been shouted by radical Muslims while atrocities have been perpetrated.)

Further honest reflection will lead us to the conclusion that discrimination against the Muslims in our country is actually the civil rights issue of our day. Put yourself in their situation, or even that of those whose names simply sound like they came from the Middle East. Then place yourself in a restaurant or courtroom, or, even worse, in an airport.

How do you think you would you react to the treatment you would receive?

How would you feel?

To bring that point home further, but in different contexts, we heard presentations from an elderly man of Japanese ancestry who had been interned as a child at Manzanar during World War II, as well as representatives from the Latino and black communities. All of them discussed their experiences while being on the receiving end of actions and programs in our great country based upon fear, intolerance and ignorance.

Other speakers reminded us that the Constitution of our great country was not created by the Founding Fathers because we are perfect beings. To the contrary, it was created because we are imperfect. So with that in mind, we must continue to be vigilant in protecting our sacred liberties for Muslims, along with everyone else. This is our common battle.

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