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Condemning violence against U.S. Muslims would benefit all

Cheney Free Press of Cheney, Washington

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On Dec. 17, 2015, Rep. Donald Beyer (D-Virginia, 8th District) introduced House Resolution 569, titled "Condemning violence, bigotry, and hateful rhetoric towards Muslims in the United States." As of Jan. 12, 107 other Democrats had signed on to sponsor the resolution, but unfortunately, no Republicans.

The title speaks for itself, and the full text can be found online. The website GovTrack. us gives the resolution an 8 percent chance of passing the House, 9 percent to make it out of the committee.

There is plenty of evidence that violence and hate speech against Muslims in the U.S. has been on the rise lately. According to a report by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University-San Bernardino (New York Times, Dec. 17), FBI data indicates an average of 12.6 hate crimes against Muslims per month have taken place nationally the past several years.

Since the Paris attacks, that rate has tripled to 38 incidents, 18 since the shootings by a Muslim couple who were supporters of the terror group Islamic State on Dec. 2 in the Center's hometown left 14 people dead. The Times story provides details on some of those incidents.

I was struck by a number of things in Beyer's resolution. One "whereas" noted the high value we place on religious freedom, and that violence or hate speech directed at any community-based faith "is in contravention of the Nation's founding principles."

It's too bad we can't tell that top the Mormons of the early to middle 1800s, who were essentially violently chased across the country until they found a home in present-day Utah. They haven't been the only ones to experience religious hatred, either.

According to more FBI data (Washington Post, Oct. 2, 2015), in 2013 there were 625 hate-related incidents against American Jews, with Muslims next at 135 and Catholics/Protestants at 105. Putting that in perspective, according to Pew Research Center 2015 studies on religion in the U.S., Jews account for 1.8 percent (5.7 million) of our population of 322 million, Muslims 1 percent (3.3 million) and Catholics and Protestants 70.6 percent (over 227.3 million).

Another whereas stipulated acts against Muslims are "contrary to the United States values of acceptance, welcoming and fellowship with those of all faiths, beliefs and cultures." Native Americans would likely question this assertion, as would the Irish, Italians, Germans, Chinese, Japanese and others who have come to this country in waves of immigration at various times over our history.

History is not a strong suit for most Americans, unfortunately. If it were, we might not be doomed to repeat it.

The final whereas in the House resolution claimed the rise of hatred and violence towards Muslims plays into the propaganda machines of Islamic-extremist groups, like IS, we are currently fighting. We've seen that, and if for no other reason, it's a good basis to urge passage of HR 569.

But for me there's more. The resolution resolves to "steadfastly" confirm our professed dedication to the rights and dignity of all "faiths, beliefs, and cultures;" declares the importance of civil rights and liberties to all citizens and "reaffirms the inalienable right of every citizen to live without fear and intimidation and to practice their freedom of faith."

These appeal to the angels of our better nature, to what we have always strived for, despite what history might say. It's a call to truly realize how we see ourselves, what we envision as the ultimate aims of our freedoms.

In 1550, a Dominican priest named Bartoleme de Las Casas sailed from the Caribbean to Spain to face King Charles V at the Council of the Indies, which according to the preface to a Trinity Forum pamphlet titled "Telling Truth to Kings," was a "forum of Spanish leaders seeking the King's ruling regarding the proper treatment of indigenous peoples" in the New World.

Las Casas's argument that they were being treated horribly for the profit and benefit of the Spanish and that Charles should change this to a more humane policy was not popular. But Las Casas prevailed, not only because of his testimony to the nature of the abuse, but by making the king understand that by engaging in this behavior, his subjects were destroying their own souls and morality, which as a ruler by divine decree, Charles was responsible for preserving.

House Resolution 569 might not raise such a noble argument, but it might be a step towards changing how we treat not only those who are different from us, but each other.

John McCallum can be reached at jmac@cheneyfreepress.com.



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Original Publication Date: January 14, 2016



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