Religious Tolerance and Acceptance of Muslims in America

No other generation since the WWII era has needed religious tolerance more than our generation. The current war and unrest in the Middle East makes tolerance of religions here in American an important issue. When certain religions become associated with acts of terror that are seen every night on the news, dangerous ideologies can be formed. America is considered the melting-pot of the world, and with such diversity living here religious tolerance is essential to maintain peace. Many religious related cases have occurred lately. In February Ibrahim Sheikhamed, a 37-year-old Sunni Muslim from Somalia, tried to run over two men near Vanderbilt University after getting into an argument over religion. One of the passengers was Protestant, while the other was Catholic. One of the students, identified as Jeremy Invus, was taken to Vanderbilt University Medical Center with critical injuries. The other passenger, Andrew Nelson, avoided the cab. Sheikhamed was charged with assault and attempted homicide.This only leaves one to wonder what was said in that cab. Did the Muslim have it out for the Protestant and Catholic, or were hateful words directed towards Sheikhamed provoking him to act out? Only the three men in the cab will ever know. Also last month, a ninth-grade world history class at Enloe High School in Raleigh had a group visit whose declared mission is to “raise an awareness of the danger of Islam”.”The father of a Muslim student reported the incident,” said Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for The Council on American-Islamic Relations. Allegedly the teacher allowed the group to distribute literature in his class, including a handout titled “Do Not Marry a Muslim Man”. “An investigation is under way and officials will take appropriate disciplinary action,” said Kristin Flenniken, a spokeswoman for the school district. Despite these specific incidences demonstrating discrimination against Muslim groups or arguments ending in violence, some Muslims in America are trying to blend the dividing line. In Michigan many Sunni and Shiite Muslims are coming together in mosques and in their communities. In the Middle East the concept of unity among the sects is unheard of. Michigan is home to the largest Muslim population outside of Middle East, and many do not see the point of condoning violence and hate among each other. “We’re coming together like Muslims aren’t doing in the world and the reason for it is that we have an opportunity to feel part of this country and feel that we have a future and it’s not a one-sided situation where Shiites are in control or Sunnis are in control,” said Eid Alawan, a Shiite Muslim on believe the reasoning behind the idealistic peace in Michigan between the Sunnis and Shiites is because in America there is no discrimination against in one particular sect like there is in Iraq and the Middle East. “Immigrants come to this country and they’re on a level playing field. The government doesn’t favor Shiite over Sunni, as did Saddam Hussein back in the home country,” said Saeed Khan, a professor at Wayne State University who is an expert on Arab and Muslim history. “They feel as though they have an equal opportunity and that people don’t look at them differently. They don’t treat them differently based on whether they are Sunni or they’re Shiite.” Unfortunately, like the first two incidences of the cab driver and the ninth-grade history class if there is discrimination it is not based on their sect but on the fact that they are Middle Eastern, look Middle Eastern, or have a Middle Eastern name. “Most Americans don’t know Muslims except for those they work with in an urban environment so all the information they get is through the media,” said Dawud Walid, director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations. A recent Gallup poll showed that 39 percent of Americans admit to being prejudice against Muslims and that nearly a quarter say they would not want a Muslim for a neighbor. Unfortunately, many Americans fear Muslims. Despite the prejudice and fear Americans feel towards Muslims, many Muslim immigrants see America as a land of peace and acceptance. America wants to be the example to the world of peacefully living among diversity, yet when Muslims come here for refuge some only find more discrimination.