By The Gazette Editorial Board
As Thanksgiving approaches, our minds naturally turn to those first European settlers. They left everything and everyone they had known in order to create a country in which, among other things, they could live free from the religious persecution that had plagued them in the Old World.
That’s always been an American ideal that’s been easier in principle than in practice. In matters of religion, it can be difficult to embrace — even to tolerate — beliefs that are different from our own.
But tolerance of religious difference is one of the minimum requirements of living in a diverse country such as ours.
Even better to embrace our religious differences. By learning about other belief systems, we can learn more about our own beliefs.
That’s one reason why we were so disappointed to hear some community leaders recently describe how some people continue to misunderstand and spread untruths about Islam and Muslim beliefs.
Nearly a decade after the Sept. 11 terrorists attacks, some panelists in a local forum said Islamophobia is worse than ever — sustained by propaganda and the deliberate spread of fear and prejudice.
If there ever was an excuse for such ignorance among non-Muslim Americans, that time is long past.
It’s a sorry situation when some Americans still can’t or won’t distinguish between extremists who promote terrorism in the name of their religion and those Muslims who are peaceful and valuable members of our society — like other religious and ethnic groups have proved to be over our country’s history.
Al-Qaida’s radical agenda does not represent moderate Islam, nor is it endorsed by the overwhelming majority of Muslims. Terrorism is a set of tactics — one that’s been used throughout history by people of every faith — not a religious belief.
After all these years of news accounts, local events and educational campaigns, we find it difficult to believe there’s are many non-Muslim American who haven’t heard this message before.
Throughout The Corridor and across the country, there are countless examples of Muslim neighbors who are peaceful, law-abiding contributors to their communities — the same as neighbors of any faith, or no faith. They are the true representatives of Islam.
If some pundits and conspiracy theorists insist on judging Islam by the violent actions of a non-representative few, they should apply that standard to all religions.
When the first American Colonists arrived on the shores of the New World, there was no guarantee that a political and social system based on democracy and liberty would thrive. There never can be. It takes hard work and an open mind to maintain a free society as rich and diverse as ours.