Muslim Americans are free to practice Islam in the United States whenever and however they choose. These are not just high-minded ideals. Freedom of religion is practiced in the United States precisely because it is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
Amendment 1 - Freedom of Religion, Press, Expression. Ratified 12/15/1791.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The PBS broadcast of America at a Crossroads demonstrated freedom of religion in the United States as it pertains to Islam. Unfortunately, some Americans who practice Islam here suggest that they have experienced cultural anxiety in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
The legitimacy of that anxiety, however, was not altogether clear. The documentary showed normal searches of a non-Muslim woman in Muslim attire at an airport security checkpoint. To address that anxiety, it should be made absolutely clear to all Americans; standard security procedures if preformed in accordance to law should not be taken personally – no matter how many times those procedures are performed. America at a Crossroads developed the exact opposite impression. Instead it validated a sense of victimization that shouldn’t exist in that situation. Enhanced security should in fact, reduce anxiety because they increase safety.
Likewise, America at a Crossroads showed a Muslim woman who felt so insecure about her post 9-11 environment that she stopped attending services at her Mosque. She did so in favor of practicing her religion at home. Unlike her faith, or the practicing of it, her surrender to her insecurities represents un-American behavior. As an American, she should not only attend her Mosque, she should practice Islam in the United States openly and proudly, regardless of the perceived risk or insult.
Where the documentary truly excelled was with its clear demarcation between fanatics who want to hijack Islam and rational practitioners of the faith.
Unfortunately, the documentary’s presentation of Muslim Fanatics appeared awkwardly dramatized. America at a Crossroads asserted it was Osama Bin Ladin’s, AKA, OBL’s great plan to mire the United States in a ground war in the Middle East. The documentary implied the United States rushed into OBL’s 9-11 trap with unprecedented arrogance and cowboyish haste. Nothing could be further from the truth. OBL’s staged attacks were ignored by too many for too long. No amount of criminal genius should be assigned to OBL for his geopolitical arithmetic. OBL’s coffee house politics would have remained benign had they not been fertilized with petroleum wealth. What ever brilliance we all garner from hindsight; in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, impudent political responses from Middle Eastern leaders demanded a calculated and articulate response.
In all, I felt the topic of Islam was covered well. The whole exceeded the sum of its parts. I found it surprisingly hopeful and uplifting.
Inversely, the most destructive scenes to my morale were the blend of writers from America’s Vietnam War and America’s current War in Iraq. It was as if the narrative of Vietnam is interchangeable with Iraq’s narrative. It begs the question; is history repeating itself because we are being made to believe it should?
These scenes left me with the feeling that all wars are lost causes. Indeed, the juxtaposition of Vietnam and Iraq implied that any spirit to win at war must be sufficiently humiliated. Why? I don’t know exactly. The answer is probably less complex than I would like it to be. God must have forsaken those of us who believe that winning a justified war is good for mankind. Any hope one may have in war exists in what comes after victory. In the midst of it however, war is about punishment. Democracy, freedom, liberty are all concepts that may or may not live in that space and time after the two sides agree to stop killing each other.
Right now I’m at a loss. Maybe the message about America’s war in Iraq was; Iraqis have suffered enough. Maybe it was; Iraqis are more capable of punishing each other than the American military ever could. Either way… permutations of punishment are likely to foster OBL’s script. Democracy, freedom, liberty on the other hand, could lead to sustainable peace. Maybe that’s the real crossroads where Americans stand. Do we validate the Middle East’s coffee house political perceptions or do we stay the course until democracy, freedom and liberty are palpable in Baghdad and beyond?
Labels: america, crossroads, iraq, islam, pbs, vietnam