Tolerance when facing strong emotions brought about by tragic events is a hard ideal to achieve, but it is one we must embrace to defeat terrorism and maintain the values America embodies. Verbal attacks against Middle Eastern students are reprehensible and should cease immediately. Violence against mosques and stores selling Middle Eastern products is unacceptable and wrong.
The GW community is one with a history of tolerance and acceptance, and that climate must continue. So far, University Police have not received any reports of violence on campus directed against Middle Eastern students, and this speaks well of our community. But just across the Potomac in Virginia, hate mongers, who spray paint racial slurs and break windows, have vandalized mosques and businesses.
The Muslim community and people from the Middle East living in the U.S. are not our enemies. Fanatics and fundamentalists who twist and distort the true message of Islam – often cited as a religion of peace rather than one of terror and violence – are the ones who kill innocent civilians with jetliners and car bombs. Someone’s skin color or national origin does not make that person dangerous or a terrorist. To assume so is discriminatory and racist.
When Timothy McVeigh destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995, no one repudiated Christianity or insisted all white men who believe in Jesus are criminals. In fact, people then, as now, pointed to Muslims as scapegoats for the tragedy – and they were wrong. People do all sorts of horrible things in the name of Christianity, but all Christians are not bad people, just as most Muslims are not terrorists.
Now, as our nation embarks on a massive effort to hunt down and bring to justice everyone responsible for the terrorist attacks against The World Trade Center and Pentagon, we must unite to support our leaders and the troops who will soon go off to a new kind of war. Divisiveness and hatred at home will hinder efforts abroad to capture those criminals wanted in the attacks. And racism and bigotry undermine the values Americans hold dear.
The GW community and America in general have nothing to fear from the millions of Muslims among us. What a sad commentary on freedom and tolerance if we give them reason to fear us.