Tag Archives: Qur’an

Freedom – What is it worth?

Freedom
Photo by: Moe

More often it seems people are concerned about what is happening to their freedoms or one person’s freedom is standing in the way of another person’s freedom.

One person’s freedom of speech can become bullying or harassment to another which has been making headlines recently across the nation even inspiring the “It Gets Better” campaign.

Freedoms have been fought for throughout America’s history but when one person’s freedom has become a source of disrespect, intolerance, hate or the cause of a crime, this is no longer just someone exercising their freedoms but instead it is an act against someone else’s rights.

What exactly is a freedom and what is a right? Where should the line be drawn and who should draw the line?

A freedom is very difficult to just flat out define but it is being free willed, making one’s own choices, having liberty, not being physically bound or confined or not having one’s future pre-determined. Freedom is being able to have something that is yours and know you will be able to hold on to it.

A right is the freedom to do something or the justifiable claim or entitlement to something. Some may say a right is something you are born with and die with like the rights spelled out in the U.S. Constitution. However, this has been something that is argued that these are more a privilege because they can be taken away from you. For example, prisoners lose many of their rights. However, we are looking at this primarily as freedoms.

Can a person have too much freedom? Is it possible for freedom to be taken too far or to be misinterpreted?

If a person had 100% freedom to do absolutely anything he/she wanted this could and most likely would begin to infringe on those around them. Each person having their own freedoms would expect to have the same apply to them, 100% freedom for themselves. This couldn’t work.

It’s very easy to come up with a quick example that is not extreme but more or less a day to day example. Imagine a busy supermarket, long lines at the register and everyone is on their cell phones, talking loudly and in no hurry to get off. That includes the cashier, the person ahead of you and the person ahead of them. Everyone is just freely talking. It may seem rude but is it breaking the law?

Putting one’s freedoms aside to respect another person and/or their freedoms has made life not only tolerable but has made America a place where people feel safe enough to speak up, be religious or choose not to practice religion, pick and represent political parties, vote, chase their dreams or follow in the footsteps of previous generations.

But, is this America being pushed aside as more individuals are consumed by personal freedoms instead of overall respect, safety and equality?

Not too long ago, in the top of the news was the Islamic Center in NYC. The issue originally stated that people were concerned with it being so close to Ground Zero.

However, once the media became more involved, the issue became more against Islam and the NYC Islamic Center wasn’t the only one having issues with people not wanting to see it built.

Another proposed Islamic Center in Murfreesboro, Tennessee ran into extreme debates even though they had been in the community for two decades. Their plans were for a larger center than their already existing one. However, opponents went to court to try to put a halt to their plans.

This past week, Chancellor Robert Corlew III denied the opponents of the Mosque an emergency injunction that would block construction so for now, it looks like plans can move forward.

What happened to freedom of religion? Who decides where the line of freedom is drawn? Then, is it really freedom?

Remember the Florida Pastor, Terry Jones? He was willing to go against top brass in the military, Lt. Gen. William Caldwell and General David Petraeus, as well as multiple religious and community leaders who urged him to reconsider his plans to burn the Holy Book of Islam, the Qu’ran, on September 11th of this year.

Why would he do such an act? Because he felt Islam was of the devil and he wanted to express how he felt.

Once his story reached the news and the news spread worldwide what he was planning to do, safety for American troops in the Middle East was a great concern as well as the safety for Americans abroad due to retaliation for what Terry Jones was planning to do. However, with these details, Terry Jones did not want to back down.

Was he breaking the law or was he just exercising his right to free speech and to share how he felt about Islam?

Terry Jones changed his mind at the last minute after all of the attention and after a great deal of fear had set in due to riots in the Middle East. This was going on at the same time as the issue over the Islamic Center in NYC and the one in Tennessee was going on. Tensions were already high. In the U.S., many people were debating different views and politicians had become involved as the 2010 mid-term elections were approaching.

When does one person’s freedom hinder another person’s freedom?

Members of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas have gone to military funerals across the country but not to pay respects to the families or say goodbye to a friend or loved one. They are armed with signs that say, “God Hates You” and “Thank God for Dead Soldiers”. They feel America’s war casualties are God’s wrath for tolerating homosexuality. Is this really the time or place for a protest or picketing? Again, are they breaking a law? Do they have the right to do this? Do these families have the right to peacefully say goodbye to their loved ones?

Freedom is something that has set the U.S. apart from many other countries around the world. Many countries do not allow near as many freedoms as the U.S. allows and although this sets us apart, this can also be a wedge that drives a great divide through the nation. The more one person’s freedom takes away from another person’s freedom, the nation loses its freedom and therefore what separates the U.S. from many countries around the world.

Freedoms lost today may not affect you, as it happens to one person or a group of people today it can happen to another tomorrow and then more people over time.

Americans must understand that every freedom we have today has come to us through someone’s great effort, fight and even death. Freedoms that have been gained over time can also be lost. They’re never to be taken lightly or for granted; not your own freedoms or someone else’s.

To be truly free requires the respect of the freedom of others and to know the limits of our freedoms. Then we, and those around us, can have a more meaningful and lasting freedom.

Homegrown Terrorism

It has become clear what goes on in one part of the world will be seen all over the world, often times in a matter of moments. Good news travels fast but it seems bad news travels even faster and is often repeated the most.

In July, the Dove World Outreach Center’s preacher, Terry Jones set the date of September 11th to burn the Holy Book of the Islamic religion, the Qur’an. What was his reason? He says Islam is of the devil.

In an interview with Rick Sanchez on CNN, July 29th he said, “We believe Islam is of the Devil. It is causing billions of people to go to hell. It is a deceptive religion. It is a violent religion. That is proven many many times.”

This pastor may feel how he wants to feel, as may anyone. However by setting this date to hold a burning of a Holy Book to the Islam religion, there are many consequences coming out of this from this one person’s choice.

Monday in Afghanistan, a protest was held in the capital. We have tens of thousands of troops fighting there and they aren’t fighting the Afghanistan people. They are helping them by fighting against their enemies, Al Qaeda.

Monday though, many of those people at the protest were getting mixed messages due to this news of what was going on at this church in the U.S. wanting to burn their Holy Book and saying their religion is of the devil? Maybe they should just give up on the American people. Why trust them?

This pastor is talking about burning another religion’s Holy Book while he lives in a country that is based on FREEDOM OF RELIGION. Does he choose what religions are free? Does he choose WHO has those freedoms?

This pastor believes he is a “patriot” but the highest ranking military officials are watching the reactions from overseas and saying it’s not good for America. Is that not enough of an alert? He’s not being a patriot. He is stirring up a conflict both here and abroad. He is doing this by choice and with full knowledge of the consequences arising and with numerous warnings from different government agencies, local officials and many around the world.

In a statement from one of the top American Generals in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, he said, “We’re over here to defend the rights of the American citizens and we’re not debating the first amendment rights that people have, but what I will tell you is that their very actions will jeopardize the safety of the young men and women who are serving in uniform over here and also undermine the very mission that we’re trying to accomplish. I would hope they would understand that there are second and third order effects that would occur that will affect the young men and women who’s out there on point for America serving their nation today because of their actions in the United States.”

These people serving our country and fighting the war on terror, are pointing out not only is this harmful for our troop’s safety and mission but also goes against the safety for America and many around the world.

Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. Commander in Afghanistan released a statement to the Wallstreet Journal saying, “It is precisely the kind of action the Taliban uses and could cause significant problems. Not just here but everywhere in the world we are engaged with the Islamic Community.”

The safety of America and American troops has always been the priority but since the attacks on September 11, 2001, the heightened security has been more focused and more attention has been on Al Qaeda, the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden.

For many people the focus has shifted to the Muslim people and more recently causing a great deal of debates over the building of or even the expansions of existing mosque.

Often times, people fear what they don’t understand or what they are told is bad or evil.

This “pastor”, Terry Jones is causing a greater amount of conflict and danger on this nation, our troops who have been risking their lives and he is doing this all for a selfish reason, because he is trying to make a point.

Although he may fully believe everything he is saying and his estimated 50 church followers may believe him as well, is America’s safety or the safety of our troops, Americans abroad or other nations that have also fought the war on terror ready to face this added terror his actions may provoke, most likely will provoke?

Someone willing to put that great of a risk on other people’s lives for their own cause is as much of a terrorist as those he claims to be fighting against.

It doesn’t matter where he is born, what religion he claims to follow or what color his skin is.

He has been told to stop. He has been told of the dangers. He has been told of the risk he is putting America, its people and its troops in and yet he is refusing to stop.

Terry Jones does not care. He has a higher calling.

Does this sound familiar? Does this sound like the behavior words of a terrorist?

Intolerance vs. Terrorism

For years now, immigration has been an issue requiring attention. The U.S. borders as well as international airports have been an access point for drugs and weapons and on September 11, 2001, America was attacked in a way many Americans never expected could happen on U.S. soil.

On that day, 2,996 people died including the 19 terrorist, Al Qaeda hijackers. The majority of deaths were civilians, including nationals from over 90 countries.

Very soon after the attacks, the luggage of one of the terrorist, Mohamed Atta, was found which not only identified all 19 male hijackers but also had detailed plans, motives and backgrounds on the men and the attacks. On September 27, 2001, the photos of these 19 terrorists were released on the news and for the first time, people could put faces to the horrible anger and blame they had been feeling about the innocent lives that had suddenly been taken away on that clear and sunny Tuesday morning in New York City.

Many people still had not located loved ones, did not know if they were missing or dead and at the same time, there was still an unimaginable grief and anger throughout the U.S. for this horrible crime. What could have caused someone to do this? What did anyone in these towers, in the Pentagon, on those planes do to anybody? Why were they suddenly gone? Why did New York City look like a war zone? Why did it feel like a war zone?

The answer to those questions would come from Osama Bin Laden. He provided the leadership and funding for this group. Initially Bin Laden denied his involvement but later admitted involvement via video tape talking to Khaled al-Harbi. The tape was broadcast on several news networks in December 2001. He stated, “Terrorism against America deserves to be praised because it was a response to injustice, aimed at forcing America to stop its support for Israel, which kills our people.”

Right after the attack, the U.S. responded with the War on Terror, a war that is continuing today in its fight to overthrow al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Here in the U.S. however, right after the attacks, hate crimes began happening against Muslim-Americans, Middle Easterners or other “Middle Eastern-looking” people. There were reports of attacks on Mosque and other religious buildings including a Hindu Temple.

Different people were assaulted and Balbir Singh Sodhi was fatally shot on September 15, 2001 when he was mistaken as a Muslim but was actually Sikh, a follower of Sikhism. Like others, he has been mistaken due to the fact both religions wear head turbans. According to studies done by Ball State University, following the attacks, people perceived to be of Middle Eastern, Arab or Muslim were more likely to be the victims of hate crimes.

Although 19 terrorists hijacked the planes on September 11, 2001 and Osama Bin Laden claimed responsibility for leading and funding the group as well as the knowledge that al Qaeda (a militant Islamist terrorist organization) is the force behind these attacks, many people still focus the attacks on an ethnic group or a religion. What is the reasoning for the lack of tolerance or the outright hate towards Muslims or those practicing Islam? The main reason given is the attacks on 9/11.

Following the attacks on 9/11, a joint statement was released by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Islamic Medical Association of North America, Islamic Circle of North America, Islamic Society of North America, American Muslim Alliance, Muslim Public Affairs Council and others which stated;

“American Muslims utterly condemn the vicious and cowardly acts of terrorism against innocent civilians. We join with all Americans in calling for the swift apprehension and punishment of the perpetrators. No political cause could ever be assisted by such immoral acts.”

The acts of these 19 terrorists did not represent their religion, their culture or their people as a whole.

April 19, 1995 was a regular Wednesday morning for those working in the Alfred P. Murray Federal Building in Oklahoma City until 9:02 a.m.

Timothy McVeigh, an American Militia movement sympathizer detonated an explosive-filled truck parked in front of the building. His co-conspirator, Terry Nichols had helped in the bomb making process which became the most destructive act of terrorism on American soil until the attacks of 9/11/01. That day, 168 people lost their lives, including 19 children. 680 people were injured.

Who was Timothy McVeigh? Where was he from? Timothy McVeigh was a U.S. Army Veteran. He had left the military in 1992. He’d written the local papers complaining about taxes and the government’s mismanagement. He was motivated by his hate for the federal government. In 1993, he drove to Waco, Texas to show support for those at Waco and distributed pro-gun rights literature. After the Oklahoma attacks, he said he was angered by the way the Waco siege was handled. He arranged his attack to coincide with the second anniversary of the deaths at Waco.

On February 18, 2010 employees at an Austin, Texas IRS office say “it felt like a bomb blew off” and that “the ceiling caved in and windows blew in. We got up and ran.”

Joseph stack, a 53 year old software engineer launched a suicide attack by flying a small plane into the IRS building containing 200 employees. Employees in surrounding offices were suddenly looking at images that appeared to be a repeat of 9/11.

Stack had previous issues with the IRS and left a note. “I have had all I can stand,” he wrote. “I choose not to keep looking over my shoulder at ‘big brother’ while he strips my carcass.”

Just in these three cases, to try to have prevented these acts of terrorism would have meant to have been looking for anyone that was of Middle Eastern decent, Muslim-American, American militia affiliated, anti-government and anyone that had really had it with the IRS?

The fact is in every group, in every race, in every religion, there are those that are bad or extreme and those people don’t represent the entire group.

This country would have never moved forward without that understanding. Wars would never truly have ended. Slavery would have never ended. Civil rights and freedoms would not exist. Equal rights cannot truly be something that the U.S. says it gives unless they are there for everyone.

True equal rights cannot be given by picking and choosing or not be given and then not honored.

The danger doesn’t come to America by those who appear to be different or come from a different culture or background. Danger comes when America fails to recognize humanity for each individual or when Americans are withholding opportunities from a select group that many are just taking for granted.

One religion can’t condemn another religion in a country that is based on “Freedom of Religion”.

There are those using the argument that the Islamic religion is based on extremism and saying that those wanting to build a mosque are doing so to convert others to their belief and lifestyle. There are two points that need to be pointed out here. First, when any church, synagogue or temple is built, it is done so to bring in new followers and also to give their present church goers a new and better place to worship. Second, in most recent news the violence happening is being done toward the Muslims and their proposed Mosque and toward their religion in the U.S., not by them.

There is a planned burning of the Qur’an on 9/11 at the Dove World Outreach Center and whether or not you agree with a person’s belief or not, to burn their religious book is just unacceptable. How would anyone feel if someone was burning Bibles? How would anyone feel if any group was holding a burning of any kind of books?

What if anytime a crime was done by a member of a family, the entire family was held accountable?

What if anytime a catholic priest was caught doing anything questionable, all priest were suddenly seen as suspicious?

What if one employee was caught stealing and suddenly everybody was being searched each day coming to work?

What if one person at a workplace says you made them feel uncomfortable and suddenly you are transferred, cut back on hours or let go of. Not because you did anything but just because someone said something, thought something or judged you.

What if another religion was suddenly the target of intolerance or hate crimes? Mormonism? Catholicism? Christianity? Would people turn their backs on the followers of this religion, join in the fight against the religion, just not do anything and remain silent or stand up for freedom of religion? What is the right thing to do in America? What is really behind the intolerance toward the Muslims, their faith and their desire to build new places to worship?