I was proud of my Murfreesboro community yesterday when hundreds of citizens turned out 98 degree heat to silently (mostly) support the expansion of our local mosque and the right of Muslims to worship as they choose. True there were three hundred or so marchers trekking from a local church to the town square to oppose both the mosque and Islam, but still this was civil democracy at its best: Two opposing groups staring each other down, chanting clever slogans at one another, and joining in a USA USA chanting contest that just brought us all together as one big unhappy family.
So many of us on both sides carried cool signs. All but one we hand made. The one exception was mine. I took my banner idea--an American flag with the words of the 1st amendment replacing the stripes and symbols of the world's religions replacing the stars- to a graphics design company and had them make me a full color banner complete with brass grommets. My banner won “Best In Protest” or it would have if there was such a contest. Runner-up was a sign from the other side that read, “Muslims Kill Converts! Tell it.” I love subtlety.
Anyway the pro-freedom of religion people gathered at the town square about thirty minutes before the anti-Islamic folks arrived. We were asked to meet them with silence, and we did. As they came onto the square they were greater with peace signs, posters that read, “All You Need Is Love,” and silence. Fearing for their lives the leader of the anti-freedom of religion marchers called to his followers to “Ignore the hate.” Maybe he meant to say, “Ignore the heat,” which was either a comment on the weather or on LeBron James’ decision to play basketball in Miami.
In any case the only thing that troubled me was the use of Israeli flags and references to Jews by the anti-Islam crowd. There is a sense that being pro-Israel is somehow being anti-Muslim despite the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of Muslim Israelis. We Americans are supposed to support Israel because she is a democracy like us. But the definition of democracy so many on the right use is closer to a Christian theocracy than anything Tom Jefferson or James Madison envisioned.
One anti-Muslim protester challenged us to think about how many Jews Muslims had killed. I don’t know why this idea was supposed to move us one way or another since I could identify only two Jews among the 1000 people at the dual and dueling protests (me and my son; I’m so proud). And, if Jewish body count is a concern, it should be noted that Christians have slaughtered more Jews then have Muslims, that Christianity has promoted Jew-hatred for 2000 years paving the way for genocide against the Jews by the Nazis and post-Nazi pogroms in Christian Europe, and that there are millions of Christians who hope to see the entirety of my people wiped out when Jesus returns (may it not be speedily in our day). So, if I have to choose between Islam and Christianity, I’d go with Islam.
All in all though it was a great day. No one really talked with one another. No one learned anything about the other. And we all got to chant USA USA. Gods bless America.