The following was written in August, 2010. It still seems valid to me. Don’t let the Trumpster cloud your vision.

We all see things through a set of filters that we have provided for ourselves or through filters that have been provided to us by others, sometimes with manipulative intention. It is the job of the thinking person to become aware of those filters and to understand how the filters influence any information provided through them. Clear thinking depends upon having an awareness of the filters and their influence, so that information provided through those filters can be recalibrated and properly assessed. One of the best books I have ever read about the educational process posited that it was the role of a good teacher to help his/her students to become excellent “crap detectors.” That is, to help students to learn how to research and assess information to eliminate as much misinformation (aka, “crap”) as possible from the subject under study.

That may sound like a pretty simple, straightforward task, but it is most certainly not that. When people thought that the Earth was flat, there were many voices, many authorities, that proclaimed with certainty that the Earth was flat. There were only a few, brave voices that studied the math and concluded that the Earth had to be round. Had I lived back then, I doubt that I would have joined the “round-Earth” proponents. I probably wouldn’t have been able to follow the math calculations, and the vociferous renunciations of “round-Earth” theorists by the flat-Earthers probably would have held sway with me because I wouldn’t have been able to prove otherwise to myself. Thought influence is a filter.

After Pearl Harbor was attacked, Americans and Canadians thought that it was right to impound Japanese Americans and Japanese Canadians in concentration camps, to seize their property, and to sell that property at bargain-basement prices, without offering any recompense what-so-ever. Had I been living at that time, I’m afraid that the filter of fear might have caused me to join the chorus of voices that supported such action as just. Some people who haven’t given the whole concept a great deal of thought may still believe that such drastic, discriminatory action was justified. Yet there were people of Japanese ancestry who were imprisoned who had been fully assimilated into North American culture, who spoke no Japanese, who had, through hard work and sacrifice, built successful fishing businesses, hardware stores, restaurants, etc., only to have their multi-generational work sacrificed at the alter of fear and suspicion. Their only “crime” was in having Japanese ancestry. American and Canadian governments have since apologized to these people in recognition of this terrible injustice.

Can we learn from history? Can we possibly clean the foggy lens of fear that clouds our vision and influences our feelings? We can, but it isn’t easy to do.

Recently, I have begun gathering facts – just facts – regarding the relationship between Islam and terrorism and I have been trying to make an independent, i.e., largely unfiltered, judgement about the visceral issue of having a mosque built near the site of the former World Trade Center.

I have to admit that upon first hearing of the plan my initial reaction was one of serious doubt about the wisdom of this action. It just seemed so wrong! But like so many events that we learn about through various “news” filters, that later turn out to be not so very accurate, the whole thing is not much like what I first reacted to.

Firstly, the proposed building site is not on the footprint of the World Trade Center. The mosque replaces a coat factory two blocks away. This is hardly hallowed ground. If it is to be considered “hallowed ground” then what do concerned people make of the porn outlets in the area? Moreover, just four blocks away, another mosque remains standing and operating. This really shouldn’t be any big deal at all, but a “news” source, that has an interest in keeping Americans’ thinking divided, seems to be championing this discriminatory cause.

Consider that the proportion of Muslims who were killed in the 9/11 attack roughly mirrors the proportion of Muslims in the NYC population as a whole. Sixty Muslims were killed in the attack. In 2010, there were about 225,000 Muslims living in NYC. Muslims were just as targeted for death by the terrorists as any non-Muslims were. Moderate Muslims suffered just as much as we did on Sept 11. Did we recognize their losses?

After the attack on Sept. 11, Americans were outraged that Muslims didn’t seem to condemn the attack, but top Muslim organizations in the United States did condemn the attacks on 9/11 and called upon Muslim Americans to come forward with their skills and resources to help alleviate the sufferings of the affected people and their families. But, since such calls for assistance were only directed at Muslims, they were largely ignored by news organizations and went unheard and unknown by the American public. Top organizations included: Islamic Society of North America, American Muslim Alliance, American Muslim Council, Council on American-Islamic Relations, Islamic Circle of North America, and the Shari’a Scholars Association of North America. Along with large monetary donations, many Islamic organizations launched blood drives and provided medical assistance, food, and shelter for survivors.  News about this never reached me, and I doubt that it reached many others either.

Will we now deny this group of people, whom we don’t understand very well, the right to build a mosque to better serve their NYC population, just because we have incorrectly linked their religion to terrorist ideals? Many Muslims have been our strong allies in identifying terrorists and having them arrested. Will they continue to feel that America is worth fighting for if other Americans deny to them that which is freely granted to any other group?

Think of it. If you were a terrorist who wanted to drive a wedge between Muslim Americans and non-Muslim Americans, what would serve your purposes better than a general backlash of Americans against Muslims in general? Suddenly, the basic message of the terrorists would start to make sense to someone so discriminated against. Mindless discrimination against Muslims in the U.S. serves the terrorist cause!

Fundamentalist terrorists are victimizing moderate Muslims in great numbers elsewhere in the world. The moderates want our help and they want to help us to defeat the terrorists. Don’t help turn these potentially valuable allies away from yourself and deliver them to the other side by showing them that they can’t possibly be accepted in the west! While I was teaching, I personally knew four Muslim boys whose dads were murdered by Saddam Hussein’s henchmen. Do you think for a moment that these boys would work to foster his ideals? They are all adamantly anti-terrorist, pro-western young men, who are Muslim. Most Muslims who live in North America do so because they enjoy what our societies have to offer them. They want peace and freedom.

Many Americans eagerly want to punish someone for deeds of terror. ( I get that.) But before you join the group of angry voices who mindlessly parrot the advice of pursuing discriminatory policies, be sure that you’ve cleared the crap from the filters presenting you with information and that you’ve correctly identified the criminals and distinguished them from those who would live peaceably in freedom. Moderate Muslims would contribute to the fight, if only Americans would let them.