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The New Intolerance

There is an email going around showing side-by-side images of 1) hundreds of Muslims at prayer on a city street, foreheads to touching their prayer mats, and 2) Tim Tebow “tebowing” on the sidelines, genuflecting in prayer. The caption under Image 1 is: “Why is this OK?” The caption under Image 2 is: “And this isn’t?”


I think the originator of this email must have reversed the images.
Author/journalist Reza Aslan, interviewed on PBS News Hour on Sept. 10, 2010, cited a Washington Post poll showing that half of Americans have a negative view towards Islam, a more than 7 percent jump from the months right after 9/11. An ABC News poll released about the same time showed that 55 percent of Americans don’t have a good understanding of Islam, 31 percent of Americans believe that mainstream Islam encourages violence against non-Muslims, and 49 percent of Americans have an unfavorable view of Islam.
A year later — just a few months ago — a “What It Means to Be American” poll found that 8 in 10 Americans believe that self-proclaimed Christians who commit violence in the name of Christianity are not really Christians; but only 48 percent say that self-proclaimed Muslims who commit acts of violence in the name of Islam are not really Muslims. Why the double standard?
Overwhelmingly, Americans believe that “America was founded on the idea of religious freedom for everyone, including religious groups that are unpopular.” But 47 percent believe that Islam is at odds with American values, versus 48 percent disagreeing.
It all adds up to a general distrust of Islam.
The answer to the two questions is, “They’re both OK — praying to Allah and tebowing.” But that’s just the surface question. The implied sub-question is, “Why is it OK for these terrorists to pray in public on our city streets after they killed 3,000 of our citizens?”
The implication to the implied question is that most people want to permit Muslim terrorists to mock us by practicing their religion openly, but that it’s wrong for an American football player to do so. As the polls cited above show, that’s not how most Americans think. Most Americans think like the originator of the email. And that’s pretty scary.

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