This morning I discovered I am a fair-weather activist. Last night a peace vigil against the hate being spewed by some Murfreesboro Christians against all Murfreesboro Muslims was held at the town square. I planned to attend. I really did. There is little that is more important that standing up for religious freedom. I mean as a professor of Comparative Religion my entire life is devoted to educating young people in the intricacies of religious systems in hopes of making them knowledgeable and respectful citizens of a religious diverse country dedicated to freedom of assembly, speech, and religion. Then it started to rain.
I thought, “Geez, do I want to get wet for the cause of religious freedom? Nah.” In my defense, it was a big storm. Thunder and lightening and everything. This was the kind of storm that Doc Emmet Brown could have used to power his time traveling DeLorean in “Back to the Future.” This was the kind of storm you could use to tap electricity if Ben Franklin hadn’t already done that. So not wanting to get wet was a serious matter.
It never occurred to me that the vigil would be moved indoors.
The group gathered in the courthouse and sang, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.” My own version is “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with them.” So sad.
All the more sad as the voices of fear become ever more powerful in my neighborhood. Republican Congressional candidate Lou Ann Zelenik says the Islamic Center planned for Murfreesboro is “designed to fracture the moral and political foundation of Middle Tennessee. “ If by moral and political foundation she means the hate filled rhetoric that passes for political discourse at the Republican sponsored Tea Party rallies I have attended, then I hope she is right.
Lori Roberts, a local citizen, said she is against the Islamic Center because she “heard these comments they are looking at making this a national Muslim center. It would make Muslims from all over the world and country come into Murfreesboro to go to meetings at the center.” This center, she said, will be a “threat to this country.”
She’s right. There is nothing more threatening to America than people having meetings. That is why the Constitution condemns the right of free assembly. Doesn’t it?
The scary thing is that Ms. Roberts doesn’t know this is true. She simply heard comments. Comments from people who hate Muslims and fear Islam. Ignorance is rampant in this town, and with it fear, and from that hate.
Tomorrow night our local mosque is holding an open house in an attempt to answer people’s questions and quell their fears. I doubt it will help, though I do plan to attend. Even if it rains.