America, the land of the free. In God we trust. Out of many, one. All are lovely American sentiments. For the USA is a promised land, where, whoever you are, wherever your family came from, whatever your means, you can make it. Just look at their President.
The land where churches are free to pursue book burnings targeting an already harassed minority. Trust in God, as long as that trust doesn’t take place within the confines of a mosque. And if some had their way, that ‘one’ would not be a brownish colour, or they’d be accused of being an illegal immigrant, and arrested for not having documents on their person. As for the President, 1 in 5 of his countrymen believe he is a Muslim. That’s a bad thing.
I am sure you have all heard of the furore in the States over the proposed Islamic cultural centre which is to be built a few blocks away from ‘Ground Zero.’ Notice how that is not a super mosque being built opposite Ground Zero. To deliberately offend Americans. Because it’s a victory monument.
There is nothing to say about the ‘controversy’, that has not been said before, and more eloquently and better informed. It just strikes me as a sign of an uncomfortable shift in the American mentality, and its supposed freedoms and liberty. It is also a sign of an uncomfortable time to be an American Muslim.
It should not be like this. Muslims in America do not live in a country which is a former colonial master, thereby factoring out any pre-existing bad blood. Muslims in America are generally better educated and better integrated than Muslims in Europe. A fifth of Muslims in America are converts, when Muslim spokespeople speak, more often than not, they have English sounding names, and All-American accents.
Yet, despite all this, it is a country where politicians of both major parties are supporting racist attacks on a house of worship. Where Muslims are being asked to take responsibility for the actions of mindless terrorists, whereas Timothy McVeigh is just some madman. Where Islamophobic protests outside mosques are not as strange as they were. Where opponents of a Presidential candidate attempt to focus on his middle name, Hussein.
Looking at all of this from across the Pond, the first thing that comes to mind, is a huge sigh of relief. A sigh of relief that my parents changed their mind about moving to Los Angeles at the end of the 1970s, and instead decided to make a life for themselves in Birmingham. Not Alabama. Personally, I cannot believe that people like Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh, with their vile views, are mainstream right wing in the States. Jon Stewart’s Daily Show is apparently an oasis in a desert of intolerance and illiberalism. Even the supposed liberal politicians mostly find themselves slavishly following the AIPAC line on anything to do with the Arab-Israeli conflict.
In the UK, Fox News’ ‘fair and balanced’ slogan would find it in trouble with Ofcom.
In Britain, we are blessed in that we have leading politicians who take a fair viewpoint on Israel and Palestine, knowing that this is the only way there will be a peaceful solution. A person wearing a ‘Islam is of the devil’ t-shirt would find themselves an outcast. Here, churches speak for Jesus’ messages of love, peace, and understanding, they do not preach hate, as those who call themselves the ‘Dove World Outreach Center’ do. Heck, the British far-right consider the Church to be traitors to the cause!
Yes, there are problems in Britain. The English Defence League, otherwise known as a bunch of football hooligans, are planning marches. However, their level of support is negligible. They are out-demonstrated wherever they rear their ugly heads. Unlike other parts of Europe, Muslims are free to build their minarets. Girls can wear headscarves in school, should they so please. Living conditions do not lead to riots becoming a common event. And unlike the US, there is no chance that any council would attempt to pass thinly disguised racist laws. We even have a healthcare system which is free at the point of service. Thereby not leaving millions of people at risk of not getting the right treatment because they do not have enough money.
And let’s not start on comparisons with Middle Eastern regimes.
It therefore seems to me more apt that the very mottos which the USA chooses to proclaim would be better placed in Britain.
Of course, there are those in the USA still willing to defend liberty, who oppose the way illiberal reactionaries manifest themselves. The majority will still oppose anything that they see as an infringement on the rights of others, including the rights of Muslims and other minorities. Yet, I, for one, believe that it is Britain which has more of a right to being the land of the free. God Bless the United Kingdom.
Views expressed in articles are the author’s and do not represent Comment Middle East
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