The other day I saw an image quote that said something like race, religion, and politics divide us. Well, I think that’s a load of crap. I think that while race, religion and politics may differentiate us, what truly DIVIDES us is disrespect. We can be different, and still stand together, united, as long as we have mutual respect. When we are divided, then it is not race, nor religion, nor politics which are to blame: it is disrespect, plain and simple.
The truth, which for some reason people find difficult to voice, is that when we differ, we are in essence finding fault with the other opinion. For example: I, as a Muslim, do not believe that Jesus is God nor the son of God. I believe that is false, that it is wrong. And Christians, by their own creed, must believe that I am wrong. But what the hell is wrong with that? What is wrong with thinking another person (or group) is wrong? Nothing! Absolutely nothing…as long as our disagreements are not coupled with disrespect. I have no right to disrespect my Christian brethren. I have no right to disrespect them with words, nor with caricatures mocking their faith, nor with hateful actions. I do not have that right, and they have no right to disrespect me.
But that’s not what happens these days. These days, when people talk about religion or politics, it’s not uncommon to hear someone say, “You’re an idiot for thinking that!” The problem we have in our society today, is that we don’t know how to respectfully disagree. And that disrespect often manifests in the form of verbal and physical hate crimes.
In the Quran (chapter 49 verse 13) it says what is translated as “O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another.” God created us with all our differences so that we can LEARN from one another! There is an innate beauty in our differences, if only we could recognize this.
Recently one of my Facebook contacts implied that I have no right to voice my concern about the results of the recent election. She claimed that since my feet do not currently tread on US soil, I don’t have the right to care about what happens there. I am simply enraged by her disrespect, on so many levels. She tried to revoke my freedom of speech, and she questioned my patriotism. She had no right to do either! Yes, I do not currently live in the US, but it IS my home. Not only is my family there, but I was born and raised there. I was educated there, I worked there. It is a part of me. I want to see it flourish, I want goodness for it. I was blessed to have been born and raised there. And although I think I may feel this way no matter where I had been born, the truth is that freedoms and privileges in the US shine above so many other countries. I’m not saying it is a perfect country. No, it is not. There is racism and sexism and all sorts of other prejudices. But the BEAUTY of America is that its very constitution works to keep those prejudices at bay. Its beauty is that at its very core is a promise to strive for a society free of prejudice. I wanted to see it keep moving forward, keep improving. I wanted to see the incidents of hate crimes decline and to see the gap of inequality diminish.
Since the results of the election, there has been a rise in hate crimes against Muslims in the US. Latino students have been verbally assaulted with chants that a wall should be built to separate them. The list does not end there, but the point is clear: the disrespect which the president-elect showed to so many minorities during his campaign is being put into action as hate by at least some of his supporters. And that is the saddest part of this election. It’s not about one man…it was never about one man. It’s about those who show support for division. If this behavior is not quelled immediately, it will undoubtedly grow out of control, and the country will fall. It’s that simple.
I do not want America to fall. The freedoms that it represents are too precious.
So what’s the answer? How do we teach respectful disagreement? How do we teach it with a president-elect who does not show it?
I want to say, as some of my friends have already pointed out, that discussion is the solution. That learning about those who are different from us from those very people may help relieve our fears and grow a feeling of respect.
But if I’m being honest, I do not think that will work. If an adult does not already recognize that they must respect people around him regardless of their race, religion, or any other differentiating factor, I do not think that he will learn it.
I want to be wrong. I want to be wrong about the direction the US seems to be heading in after this election.
I put my faith in God and pray that He will protect my brothers and sisters in humanity from all forms of disrespect.