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The history of religious and racial intolerance in the U.S.: Diane and guests explore what’s changed and what hasn’t nine years after the 9/11 attacks and discuss current concerns over what some are calling an anti-Muslim frenzy.
- Barry Lynn Executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State and author of "Piety & Politics" (Harmony Books)
- Robert Destro Professor of law, director, Interdisciplinary Program in Law & Religion Columbus School of Law The Catholic University of America
- Azizah al-Hibri Professor of law, University of Richmond founder and chair, KARAMAH: Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights
- Andrew Kohut Director of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Anti-Muslim fervor's in the spotlight this week. Much to the horror of many, including the president, a minister of a very small church in Florida plans to burn the Quran on the anniversary of 9/11. The stunt symbolizes what many fear is a growing religious intolerance in this country. Joining me to talk about the history of religious and racial intolerance in the U.S., what's changed and what has not since 9/11, Barry Lynn. He is executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Robert Destro is director of the Interdisciplinary Program in Law and Religion at the Catholic University of America, and Azizah al-Hibri is professor of law at the University of Richmond. We are going to take your calls. You're always an important part of the program. Call us on 800-433-8850. Send us your e-mail to email@example.com. You can join us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Good morning to all of you.
MR. BARRY LYNNGood morning.
MS. AZIZAH AL-HIBRIGood morning.
MR. ROBERT DESTROGood morning.
REHMBarry Lynn, if I could start with you, a group of prominent Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders recently described the situation today as an anti-Muslim frenzy. What do you see going on?
LYNNWell, it is a frenzy, but it's certainly one that has been mirrored many times in the past in the United States. You know, we Americans like to think we were always pretty tolerant people. We got along with everyone. But every time that religious minorities begin to be seen, exist, start to organize themselves, majorities tend to say, this is a danger to the republic. This is a danger to our country. This happened with Catholics. It happened with Mormons. It happens today with Muslims, and for that matter, other small minority religious groups in the country. So sadly, it's nothing new. But it's always ugly, and it's very ugly these days.
REHMWhat can you tell us about the minister in Florida? And what is he trying to say?
LYNNWell, I think what he's done -- his little church that has only 40 or 50 members is called the Dove World Outreach Center, and apparently, he wasn't doing too well even outreaching to Gainesville, Fla. He only had 40 members. But, now, he has become an international celebrity in the best and worst sense of the word -- that is, he has taken his protest, which had gone pretty much unnoticed for the past five years, and because of adding the element of burning the Quran, now this has become an international crisis with world leaders who don't understand, in many cases, the power that the president does and -- or in this case, does not have to stop this man, now that he appears to be almost a party to silence. When, in fact, the president, as well as the secretary of state, as well as Sarah Palin, have been pretty unequivocal in their opposition to what this gentleman in Florida is doing.
REHMBarry Lynn, he is executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the author of the book "Piety & Politics." Bob Destro, how do you compare what's happening today with other eras in our society?
DESTROWell, it's actually very comparable. I mean, I think that Barry pointed out very nicely that we go through periods of this. It's about every 50 years, really. If you go back to the -- to when the first colonist came, the first thing they started doing was being intolerant to Roger Williams and kicked him out of Massachusetts for failing to do the Sabbath. If you get into the 1840s, there were Bible riots in Philadelphia where they shot into the side of a church with a cannon because they accused the Catholics who didn't want to have prayer in schools of taking the Bible. So, I mean, it's -- and then when you have a war, it's even worse.
REHMSo what you're saying is it's a part of who we are and what we have been right from the very beginning, even though we like to call ourselves the most democratic, the most tolerant society in the world?
DESTROI think that's right, but we also get over it. It's part of the assimilation process. We get...
REHMUh-huh, that's interesting.
DESTRO...great Supreme Court cases like Pierce v. Society of Sisters, when they tried to shut down the Catholic schools, or no German in -- teaching in grade schools. So, you know, we get over this, and I think we'll get over this one too. Here we are on the radio, talking about it. That's great.
REHMWell, I hope you're absolutely right. Robert Destro is professor of law, director of Interdisciplinary Program in Law and Religion at the Catholic University of America. And, now, turning to you, Azizah al-Hibri, you say that discrimination against Muslims in this country is nothing new.
AL-HIBRIThat is correct. And in fact, there is a lot of misperception about when did Muslims arrive in this country? A lot of people speak about us as recent immigrants, who are the latest wave, you know, on the boat. In fact, Muslims have been in this country since before the 14th century. And many of the African-American slaves who were brought up from Africa were Muslims. And there are books about how they were prevented from practicing their religion at the same time that the founding fathers were passing the First Amendment that guarantees the practice of religion. Jefferson and others had, most likely, Muslim slaves. And I concluded that just from seeing the writings of Jefferson about freedom of religion and the sort of customs that people of other religions engage in. Also, you know that Jefferson had a copy of the Quran, which is now at the Library of Congress. So the founding fathers were familiar with these things and familiar with the atmosphere at that time and were very careful to navigate through it so that they don't get caught into it.
AL-HIBRIFor example, at that time, Humphrey Prideaux wrote about Islam. He has a book which he called, "The Nature of the Imposture Fully Display'd in the Life of Mahomet." They called Islam a false religion. Many of these things that we're hearing today have happened as early as the 1800s. We had at that time, through Jefferson, an attempt by that president for a regime change in North Africa, very much like what we're going through today. I think we can overcome all these cycles if we just bring them to consciousness out of subconsciousness and have a true dialogue among all Americans about Islamic religion, we would be happy to chat about it and allay the element of fear that lies in lack of knowledge.
REHMAzizah al-Hibri. She is professor of law at the University of Richmond. She is founder and chair of KARAMAH: Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights. And you are invited to join us, 800-433-8850. Barry Lynn, what's changed is 9/11. And instead of focusing on a small group of radicals, we seem to have enveloped all Muslims into our thinking.
LYNNYes, sadly, that is the case. And I think there has just been an overwhelming amount of misinformation about the nature of Islam, the nature of Islamic law, and also what the nature of the average Muslim believer is. So now we find such absurd comments being taken as commonplace knowledge that Sharia law -- Muslim law right out of the Middle Ages -- people would say that's the goal of Muslims in America. I was just told that a few days ago on a certain unnamed Fox TV network.
LYNNAnd the truth is people honestly believe that even though Muslims in America constituted most of 1 percent of the population, and most of those people have no interest whatsoever in turning the Constitution into a document of Sharia law, people fear it. They fear that it's coming. And this is part of the traditional difficulty in the country. As soon as a religious minority starts to become part of the dialogue, then to some Americans, sadly, they become a threat to the established order. They are the others, and they are to be feared and harmed if necessary.
REHMAt one point, Roman Catholics became the object of that fear. And it was right after John F. Kennedy was elected president, Barry.
LYNNIt -- no, it certainly was. And although Bob Destro is not a Pollyanna about it, I do think sometimes the trend is not always in one direction. So there were state constitutions in the colonial period in South Carolina, Massachusetts, that prohibited Catholics from holding office. We kind of got over that. But then in 1960, when John Kennedy appeared to be possibly the first Catholic president, Norman Vincent Peale, who was an extraordinarily powerful Protestant evangelist at the time...
LYNN...very popular, terrific book writer, best-selling author -- starts a group and makes a statement that said, "Faced with the election of a Catholic, our culture is at stake. Our culture is at stake." So frankly -- of course, we're on about the 50th anniversary today of John Kennedy going to Houston, Texas, and speaking to Baptists and explaining that he was a Catholic, but his loyalty as president was to the Constitution. And that was a speech many historians say may have won him that election in 1960.
REHMHe went on to say, "It is inconceivable that a Roman Catholic president would not be under extreme pressure by the hierarchy of his church to accede to its policies with respect to foreign interest, and that the election of a Catholic might even end free speech..."
REHM"...in America." Those -- the thoughts, the words of Norman Vincent Peale in anticipation of the election of John F. Kennedy back in 1960. Short break. We'll be right back.
REHMAnd we are joined now by Andrew Kohut. He is president of the Pew Research Center. Good morning, Andy.
MR. ANDREW KOHUTGood morning, Diane.
REHMTell us what your recent poll suggests about attitudes toward Muslims here in the U.S.
KOHUTWell, I think the most important thing to know is there's no signs of backlash in response to Muslims these days. Public -- the general national public has mixed views of Muslims as they've had over the past eight years or so, a little less positive than they were right after 9/11 when President Bush did a pretty good job of making the case that this was not a Muslim attack on America. But ever since, we've seen a somewhat less positive response. For example, we get about equal numbers of people saying that Islam encourages violence more so than other religions, and almost as many people say that that's not the case. So there's really no sign that, and it's particularly over the past year or so or in recent months that the numbers are any different on Muslims.
REHMSo this Florida pastor -- or so he calls himself -- sort of telling everybody he's going to burn the Quran is simply sort of hyping the whole anti-Muslim fervor, perhaps trying to build on something that's not even there.
KOHUTYeah, I think that just because you have an incendiary provocateur -- pardon the expression -- doesn't mean that you're going to be -- the American public is going to fall into place.
KOHUTThere's a great deal of sympathy, actually, for Muslims. We found last year when we asked, "Is there a lot of discrimination against a variety of groups?" Fifty-eight percent said there was a lot against Muslims compared to 35 percent for Jews, 26 percent for evangelical Christians. And Muslims themselves -- we did a major survey back in 2007 -- said -- back then, 53 percent said -- you know, it's difficult to be a Muslim in America since 9/11. And I think a lot of Americans pick up on that, which isn't to say that there aren't a very significant -- small but significant numbers of people who have rather negative attitudes. But they haven't changed that much, and most people, you know, have sort of -- don't have the same positive view of -- they have of Christians. But there's nothing in the poll -- in our poll, at least, that says this is blowing up in some respect.
REHMAnd there is something of a perception that Muslims are having a hard time here in the U.S.
KOHUTAbsolutely. I mean, the only group that we see getting higher ratings in terms of discrimination are gays and lesbians when we asked the American public who's discriminated against in America.
REHMAndrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center, thanks for joining us.
KOHUTSure, Diane. Thank you.
REHMAnd turning back to you, Azizah, this whole question of 9/11 and how it changed perceptions. You pointed out during the break that, of course, Muslims were killed during 9/11.
AL-HIBRIYes. Some of them were just employees and workers in the building, and others were first respondents or people who decided to go and help and got killed in the process. The extent of the harm that came to Muslims in that building at that time is not really known around here. But also I'd like to point out that this is not the first time terrorism had struck. It had struck in Muslim countries before it struck in the United States. Algeria was the first one to ring the bell of terrorism, you know, and warned the United States and everybody else about it because they experienced it in their own country. And we know that Saudi Arabia had suffered from it. If it is an Islamic phenomenon, so to speak, why are the Muslim countries subjected to it? Clearly, this is a very small group with a certain political idea and using the religion as a garb to make it more acceptable to other people, just like, you know, some of the other actions we see by people of other religions. That's why an -- it's very important to have an open conversation about it.
REHMAnd to you, Bob Destro, give us some examples of the discrimination that Roman Catholics faced and the violence that occurred in the name of religion.
DESTROWell, I mean, once again, the -- if you go back, say, to the 1920s, or the -- shortly after World War I, most of these things do, you know, take place around either big immigration waves or wars. And the Ku Klux Klan up in the Northwest decided that it was -- that the Catholics were foreigners and that they were teaching foreign values, so they wanted to shut down the schools. In Nebraska, they passed a law that really targeted primarily the Lutherans who were German, and they read the Bible in German. And so they shut down -- they tried to shut down the schools. They tried to shut down the curricula. So in Philadelphia it was a fight over which part of the Bible do you read, you know. So these questions reoccur. It wasn't just Kennedy that...
LYNNYeah, I also think it's important that we recognize that one of the other groups that does not turn out terribly well in most polls are non-believers. If you don't believe anything positive about religion, or you don't believe in God at all, as late as the 1950s, not only could you not find publishers who would publish a book about atheism, you couldn't even find printers who would print your privately produced book about atheism.
LYNNSo in that sense, again, these days we see some reaction to the growing secularist movement from people who say, well, we never heard from these people before. Maybe they pose a danger. It's yet one more minority in America that is the subject of intolerance and bigotry, to the point where in a New York Times reported poll a few years ago, people, of all the groups that they didn't want their sons or daughters to marry, at the top of the list, not Muslims, not Jews -- atheists.
AL-HIBRII want to focus a little bit more on tolerance as opposed to intolerance. I do not want us to be overtaken by a small group and what they're doing in Florida. I'd like to point out, for example, that in one mosque in the United States after 9/11 -- which received a threat and the neighbors heard about it -- when the Muslims came to pray the next day, there was a big chain surrounding the mosque. And it was a chain of non-Muslims protecting it from the threat. This is really the real America as far as I know it, the America I lived in. The American people are very good people, and they do not intend to discriminate against anyone. That's why I say, if we discuss it and make it clear, then people will move away from it.
AL-HIBRII also want to point out that this is a very sad event to be broadcast to Muslim countries at this time because this is the year, by the way, in which the emir of Qatar financed the rebuilding of a damaged church in southern Lebanon. This is the year that the Egyptian government renovated an ancient synagogue in Cairo. And this is not something new on their part. This is part of a tradition, an Islamic tradition that goes back over a thousand years. We in the United States should do no less.
REHMWhat similarities or differences, Barry, would you say exist between racial discrimination, religious discrimination? How do they compare?
LYNNWell, I think sometimes, as Bob pointed out earlier, the Ku Klux Klan, historically, have been concerned about matters of race -- and they wanted to discriminate on the basis of race -- did take on the issue of religion, and decided that Catholics, too, should be joined with African-Americans as the targets of animosity laws and even acts of violence. So sometimes it's hard to distinguish the two. I think with religion, for some people, it's easier, more important to discriminate against people of other religions because you're talking about ultimate matters. You know, if you're wrong about a matter of affirmative action, you're just wrong here. If you're wrong about your religion, you could be suffering eternal consequences, negative ones, if you're picking the wrong religion. So people get fired up about religion in some ways -- in ways more dramatic than they do about race over the last 50 years.
DESTROWell, I would like to go back to something that -- I think this is all correct, but something that is easily said is -- and I think the audience needs to think about this -- is that there's a billion Muslims out there. And they don't want just toleration. They want respect just like every other person. And we need to think that this man in Florida -- I hate to bring back the attention to him -- but he's not acting like an American. Our commanders have asked him not to do this. He's not acting Christian. Christ said, love your neighbors, you know. And he's not doing this, and this is strategically -- this is idiotic.
REHMIdiotic is, on the one hand, always in the eye and ear and mind of the beholder. But this man is getting support from some places even though you've got the secretary of state and you've got the president of the United States now coming out and saying this is something that could harm a great many people. To what extent do you think, Azizah, have popular views of Islam been tainted then by the actions of the very few?
AL-HIBRIQuite a bit. And I think part of the issue is how are we going to respond to that? The problem has been that the Orientalists, before even September 11, have filled the libraries with books that really did not understand Islam. These are people that went into the East, and specifically the Middle East, and saw it as a conquered country and wrote as outsiders without trying to understand the soul of the people. They came back, many of them, with very unusual conclusions that are now being picked up in universities as well as by the average person.
REHMGive me an example.
AL-HIBRIWell, if you look at some of the work in the 18th century that I was referring to, you will again find -- two examples I will give you that seem very contemporary. One is the wish to liberate the Muslim woman from her man, oppressive man. And the other one is the Muslims in this country -- because I mentioned to you there were Muslims in this country -- as untrustworthy and possibly spies. And there were books about that. It sounds like it is today and not yesterday. Now, the Orientalists helped in that. In the writings, they projected about Northern Africa during the Barbary Wars. In fact, you know, some of it is worth looking at again to see the kind of racism that was mixed with the religion. Because remember, if we're talking about North Africa, we're talking about Muslims who are darker skin than ours. So racism plays a big role in this.
REHMAzizah al-Hibri, she is professor of law at the University of Richmond. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." And we're going to hear from our listeners now. Do join us, 800-433-8850. Let's go first to Norfolk, Va. Good morning, Louis. You're on the air.
LOUISGood morning, Diane, and your panelists. I want to say that this preacher who is attempting to burn the books, there is one word that the press has not used to label him, and that word is terrorist. If Muslims had decided in their masjid that they were going to burn Bibles, the word terrorist would be all over every major newspaper in the United States. This gentleman -- terrorism doesn't always have to take the form of physical violence against a person. This -- by his actions alone, he is putting our troops in danger overseas. This terrorist act he is doing is comparable to how David Koresh in Waco, Texas, Jim Jones in Guyana, South America -- these actions are very, very incendiary, very, very dangerous.
REHMIndeed. Barry Lynn.
LYNNYeah, I mean -- and frankly, it appears that Rev. Jones doesn't really care about these implications. He understands that powerful speech sometimes results in powerful damage. And at least at this moment, he seems not to care about that. In fact, it will simply give him more power, he thinks, in his causes in the future.
REHMNow, here is a question of law in which I'm interested. Doris, who's here in Washington says, "Would it be a hate crime to burn the Quran? I hope that if the pastor in Florida goes ahead with his plans, he is arrested immediately, tried and sentenced to prison."
REHMWe have been a country of freedom of speech. You can burn the American flag. You can burn anything you want.
LYNNYou know, you can. And I don't think that this, in the State of Florida, would constitute a hate crime. It's not directed at an individual. It is directed at a book, and it's obviously hateful and terrible. The only legal argument that I have heard that possibly, possibly could be used is there are local ordinances against burning things like trash or leaves. And if that...
LYNNIn public. And if that was uniformly applied, if they had arrested somebody or fined somebody last year for burning trash in their backyard, maybe they could say you can't have an open fire of 200 Qurans. It's a thin read, but it's the only one I've heard that makes any constitutional sense.
AL-HIBRINo. I don't understand why this could not be analyzed very fully as a national security issue. I mean, Bob had mentioned, and the president and Gen. Petraeus, about all the damage that's going to possibly come to our troops as a result of this action. So you might say, well, do we want to use the national security argument to trump the First Amendment? Well, our government has already done that. In fact, Muslims are not allowed -- basically through restrictions -- are unable to tithe every year as their religion requires because we are concerned about the money going to terrorists. So we have put very strict laws that have frozen the Muslims from being able to donate money. That's a First Amendment issue as well. So if we're going to use national security on one side, we should be able to use it on the other.
REHMBob Destro, you've talked a lot about immigration assimilation. What makes for a good assimilation, and what makes for a bad one?
DESTROWell, the good assimilation is conversations like this. I think the best interface dialogue happens when you're both digging a ditch together, and you get to know each other as human beings. And the problem with what we're discussing today, really, is that it builds barriers between ourselves and the Muslim world. Most Americans don't understand that the first Muslim country to give condolences on 9/11 was Iran, you know. So the -- there are real wonderful people out there. We need to enlist them against these crazies and of whatever religion they are. And anything that builds a barrier is a national security concern.
REHMRobert Destro is professor of law at The Catholic University of America. We'll take a short break, then more of your comments, questions. Stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back, as we talk about tolerance, intolerance and anti-Muslim attitudes that are currently across the land. Here's an e-mail from John in Dallas, Texas who says -- and his e-mail, by the way, represents a great many we've already received. He says, "I'm not a Muslim, Christian or a Jew. So I feel I can make a good judgment from the outside. I know Islam is not a violent religion, but surely your guests would agree the leaders of Islam in America have done a very poor job of public relations and don't seem to care what Americans think about Islam. Why don't the leaders of Islam in America do a better job of calming the fears of so many?" Azizah.
AL-HIBRIIt's partly fair, partly unfair criticism. The fair part is that we could always do more. The unfair part is that a lot of the leaders -- whoever these leaders might be -- have tried to speak out, but they have not been able to reach the public channels that others so readily reach. So they have been trying in a variety of ways to make their voices heard. Now, I think with these kinds of events, we get a chance to be on your show, on other shows. But during the usual everyday discussion, nobody is really interested in making this a big topic. I know that for the last 20 years, I've been speaking about Islamic law and the fact that Islamic law has given Muslim women a great deal of rights, that they're not oppressed by religion but by culture. And in fact, I have been invited continuously to speak about it in various places, not only at home but abroad. But this is a big country, and we need a lot of voices to speak out. And it's going to take a lot of time before our message is heard.
REHMAnd here's another e-mail from Jeff who says, "I live in a very conservative and deeply Christian state. Many of my Christian friends are adamant that the Quran encourages violence against non-Muslims. What parts of the Quran are they citing? Where does this come from? They seem to want to outlaw this religion." Robert Destro.
DESTROWell, I think probably the easiest response to that is to ask which person, which prophet is mentioned the most in the Bible -- or in the Quran. And the answer is Jesus. And his mother, Mary, has a whole surah of the Quran about her. And so the -- so Christians need to read the directions. They need to read the book. And I think that's the encouragement we need. That's why, as Azizah said, we need to -- you need to invite the imam over to the church for a conversation.
LYNNYou know, there's an irony, too, Bob. I suspect that if you had Jay Leno go out in -- as he often does -- and say to people, I'm going to quote something and I want you to tell me who said it. “I have come not to bring peace but the sword.” Was -- did Mohammed say that or did Jesus say it? I'll bet two-thirds of America would say, sounds like Mohammed. Of course it's from the book of Matthew.
AL-HIBRIWell, let me just say that this is a very good point. Part of the problem, whether it is with the Bible or with the Quran, is that people who want to talk about religion, many of them tend to take one verse here and one verse there and then analyze when, in fact, you really need to look at the world you're presented by the Bible or the Quran to understand what that verse is doing in that context. That is a more difficult job, and people don't do it.
REHMLet's go to Charles who's driving in Michigan. Charles, I do hope you're pulling over before you comment.
REHMGo right ahead, sir.
CHARLESOkay. I'm a Muslim of 22 years, African-American, born here in the states. I've heard a lot of conversation about hijacking, this 9/11, the proposed center in New York, and I haven't heard any mention of -- and the fact that the Quran specifically forbids becoming -- (sounds like) it says that if you kill one innocent person, it is as if you have killed all of mankind. And if you save the life of one, it is as if you have saved all of mankind. How then is it that because these men spoke Arabic, the ones that ran the planes at two towers, because they spoke Arabic, the connection to Islam was made immediately?
CHARLESI mean, because if they had said God is great in English, that connection would not have been made.
AL-HIBRIHe's absolutely right about the verse of the Quran that he cites. Islam not only respects human life but also human dignity. For example, God says in the Quran, we have given dignity to the children of Adam. It didn't say to the Muslims or to the man, but to the children of Adam in general. So our dignity comes from God and not from a state or a human being.
REHMAnd yet Rick from Indiana says, "Muslim countries are murdering Christians. That's more important to report than burning a few Qurans." What is he talking about?
LYNNWell, you know, I'm sure that he's talking about some terrorist incidents that have ended up killing Christians. But I remind people also that there have been seven -- I believe seven women heads of state in predominantly Muslim countries, which goes a long way, as Azizah pointed, to suggesting that the general new or true interpretation of Islam certainly doesn't penalize women. In fact, it may indeed elevate them to the heads of their own countries.
REHMAnd to Mary who's in Gainesville, Fla. Good morning to you. Mary, are you there?
REHMGo right ahead, please.
MARYFirst of all, I think that it's important for everybody to know that there are a lot of counter-protests to this going on in Gainesville. I think the whole community is extremely embarrassed by the actions of Terry Jones, and just as, you know, Americans are embarrassed that this is taking place. But I want to say, though, I think that this hatemongering that's going on right now has, in large measure, been promoted by the press. And I don't believe that anybody as trifling as Terry Jones, the reverend -- I use that sort of loosely -- Terry Jones, whose criminal biography is coming to life every -- more and more every day -- I don't think anyone that trifling should have received the attention that he's wanted and that he has gotten. And I don't think that would have happened if it hadn't been -- that it's been given to him by the press.
MARYAnd I think that the same sort of thing goes on all the time. I think one of the biggest evidences that anti-Islam sentiment in this country are all these hurling around of accusations that the president of the United States, Barack Obama, is a Muslim as though that somehow rather is a really bad thing for him to be. And, you know, I just -- I believe that people like Glenn Beck -- who can't say President Obama or Barack Obama without emphasizing that his middle name is Hussein -- are the people who are promoting this. And I think that the press' reporting of it is a really, really bad thing. I mean, I know we can't stifle the press, but I don't think we need to emphasize the actions of idiocy. They're (unintelligible)
LYNNYeah, I, you know, I think, Mary, this is a real dilemma for anybody. And I did have a conversation with a reporter for one of America's great newspapers yesterday raising this issue. And her response is interesting. She said, look, we had internal debates about covering the Quran burning. But then when Gen. Petraeus made his comment, it became, of necessity, a national and international news story. And I think that that's a justification.
REHMAnd then the secretary of state and then...
REHM...of the United States. Azizah, you want to make a comment?
AL-HIBRIYes. I -- I'm looking at my notes, and I wanted to share with you a comment or two. There is a treaty that the Prophet Muhammad, very early on, executed with the Christians. And I'd like to read from it in response to the claim about killing Christians. It says -- the prophet says, I will protect their -- that is, the Christians'-- backs and defend them from any danger myself. And also with my helpers, the people of my faith and my followers, as if they were my own people and congregation. And then he goes on to speak about protections for bishops, for churches, et cetera. This is the tone that the prophet set from day one.
REHMHere is another thought from Ethan in North Carolina, which may really sum up this whole event. He says, "Book burning, demagoguery, xenophobia, pandering. Doesn't it remind you of another historical time and place when the economy was bad? Doesn't it remind you of the mass insanity that took over a country called Germany in the 1930s?" Bob Destro.
DESTROI think that's a -- personally, I think that's a little over the top. And the reason I say that is that, I think, the -- its -- people are upset. They feel alienated. People don't have jobs. They feel adrift. And when these things happen, there's always that sense of outside threat. But, you know -- but we should, I think, try and bring people together around this and to say, look, how do we best reach out to the Muslim world and become their partners in this fight against terror? Because as Azizah pointed out, there's terrorism in the Muslim world, and this is really, in many respects, a fight among Muslims.
REHMLet's go to Indianapolis. Jason, you're on the air.
JASONHi, Diane, I love your show.
JASONThe point I'd like to make is, I think that some of the smaller congregations in certain areas kind of foster an underlying racism whether they come out and say you need to be a racist or not. I think there's kind of, in certain churches, a racist undertone. And I also believe there might be -- some churches kind of push a anti-government tone.
JASONAnd the other point I'd like to make. As I grew up in a small town in a suburb of Indianapolis called Plainfield -- and there's a Muslim center out there -- and I can remember as a kid, just certain names that were -- you know, people would call Muslims in my schools and stuff, I mean, names I would not want to repeat on the air. But at a very young age -- so, I mean, a lot of that obviously is fostered growing up from parents and stuff like that. And I guess I'll just take your guests' remarks off the air.
REHMAll right. Thanks for calling. Barry.
LYNNYeah, I mean, it's -- sadly, not only does the Dove World Outreach Center -- it may only have 40 members, but it also has a kind of a Facebook page suggesting that people send in Qurans to be burned and so on. It had over 8,000 members when I checked on it the other day. So they do reflect maybe small numbers of people but in a lot of parts of the United States. And much as we need to talk about tolerance and the good things, we also have to recognize that there is this real virus of insensitivity, racism, intolerance that occurs outside of Gainesville, Fla.
REHMBarry Lynn, he's executive director of the Americans United for Separation of Church and State. You're listening to the "The Diane Rehm Show." Luke would like us to talk about the Anti-Masonic Movement in the early 19th century. "I'm interested in history," he says, "but I've never heard much about this." Barry.
LYNNWell, there has always been a sense that any secret society or society that's not completely transparent is also secretly trying to plot the overthrow of the government. It wasn't just in the early 1900s that anti-Masonic sentiment occurred. It still occurs. The Masons become lumped in with other groups, the Illuminati, by the people who believe that these are secret organizations trying to take over the world. Because we don't understand Masons, most of whom have no interest in taking over anything except perhaps the leadership of their own group in a local town. Nevertheless, it's all part of it. If we can distinguish them, if we can say those people are different than we are, then we can find a reason to dislike them, fear them and try to put them out of business.
REHMHere we go to Fort Drum, N.Y. Jorge (sp?) , you're on the air.
JORGEThank you, Diane, for having me. I'm a soldier in the army now, 10 years, and I've had several combat tours. You know, from a personal experience, you know, there's families out there being prosecuted by their own people or persecuted by their own people for, you know, not holding the hardcore ideals of the few, you know, within their own countries. And I'd also like to go on, and, you know, I -- personally, I was welcomed openly. Every family that, you know, I met, I was given food, water, you know, anything that they could do to try and help us when we were there. You know, we're looking at the Muslim population as a whole by less than, you know, 1 percent of a semantic, you know, people with their own individual ideals and what the Quran says, you know.
JORGEI myself was an immigrant to United States when I was nine-and-a-half coming from Eastern Europe in Romania. Growing up Greek Orthodox, I came here wearing, you know, a bowtie, a button-up shirt, slacks and penny loafers. I got the crap beat out of me because I was different...
JORGE...you know. And I had to learn at a young age, you know, you either have to adjust to the ideals of the people around you or be persecuted. And it's entirely wrong that I have to look at your own morals just to state that you'd have to do that to be safe.
REHMJorge, thank you so much for your service and for calling this morning. I think he makes some good points. Finally, from Muhammad, in Alexandria, Va., who says, "The issue is money. While the damage done is obvious, the real beneficiary is the pastor who now, no doubt, is inundated with cash flowing from the many thousands of sympathizers that the media has unwittingly mobilized." Do you all agree with that?
DESTROI think that's true. Usually you can follow the money back to motive. But I also think there is a great deal of misunderstanding of Islam. And I agree with Azizah. I think the media could do a much better job of educating people.
REHMAnd last word, Barry Lynn?
LYNNYeah, I'm not sure that this Terry Jones is going to become a celebrity. He won't be as big as the "Jersey Shore" people, I'm sure. Some money will go to him from bigots around the world. That's no doubt about it. But I don't think he's going to be offered a big-time contract any time soon. I hope not.
REHMMore talk, more dialogue necessary. That's all there is to it. Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Robert Destro of the Catholic University of America, Azizah al-Hibri, professor of law at the University of Richmond, thank you all so much.
REHMThanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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