The war for gay rights in the United States is nearly over and victory will go to gays and lesbians. Sure, there are still battles to be fought: “don’t ask, don’t tell” must be ended, gay marriage needs to be legalized nationwide, Congress must pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to prohibit employers from discriminating against gay and lesbian employees, but it’s just a matter of time. The legislative, executive and judicial branches are all taking action in favor of equality. More significantly, public opinion is shifting in support of gay issues; and young people, overwhelmingly, see the entire debate as nothing more than a red herring. This coming victory for lesbians and gays creates a void for intolerant, judgmental, fear-based hate-mongers. Who are they going to attack in the future? If the headlines from the past few weeks are any indication, next in line to be pilloried are Muslims.
While polls show increasing support for gays and lesbians in the U.S., recent polling indicates that Americans have a less favorable impression of Muslims today than we did on the days following the 9/11 attacks. A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll reveals that 49% of respondents have “an unfavorable view of the faith.” Then there is the crazy notion, confirmed by polling, that more Americans than ever believe that President Obama is Muslim. Polls are indicators of where the country stands on issues. For Muslims, these polls do not present a pretty scenario for the future.
Polls and headlines have also figured prominently in the Ground Zero Mosque debate. Of course, it isn’t a mosque that is proposed for Lower Manhattan, its an Islamic community center that, in addition to a prayer room, includes features such as a swimming pool, food court, bookstore and a memorial to September 11. And, it isn’t exactly located at Ground Zero – it’s two blocks away. Critics of the community center say it’s an affront to the victims and families of 9/11. But Islam did not attack the World Trade Towers, Islamic terrorists did. Blocking the construction of this community center would be like protesting the building of a YMCA near the site of the Murrah Federal Building, bombed by Timothy McVeigh, in Oklahoma City. It doesn’t make sense and it goes against the very principles of our democracy.
I hesitate to even mention a certain alleged man of faith from Florida whose fifteen minutes of fame has already extended well past its shelf life. A call to burn the Qur’an on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, from a previously unknown minister who can count his supporters on a couple of hands and feet, should have been ignored. The fact that it led the news for days and warranted comment by President Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates says something about our appetite for Islamophobia. If only a call to read the Qur’an, instead of burning it, would generate the same amount of attention.
America, it seems, always needs a whipping boy. At various points in history it has been groups like the Irish, Jews, the Japenese, African Americans and gays and lesbians. Now, it may be the Muslims’ turn to have anger, fear and ignorance directed at them. Perhaps leaders of the gay community should have a “coffee summit” with Muslim leaders. It is, to be sure, an unlikely alliance, but Muslims are going to need allies if they become the next group to be scapegoated in the U.S. The good news for Muslims is that this scorn will eventually pass to another group. Let that be a caution to us all.