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Reject religious intolerance and prejudice

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Steve Corbin, guest columnist

Iowa’s religious diversity includes Christian (76 percent), Jewish (1 percent), Muslim (1 percent), Buddhist (<1 percent), Hindu (<1 percent), other world religions (<1 percent), and 21 percent unaffiliated (e.g., atheist, agnostic, etc.). As such, Iowa’s spirit should be harmonious where we practice “loving our neighbors as ourselves.”

By listening to our politicians let alone following news media coverage, it is quite apparent that intolerance, bigotry and hate reigns.

Yes, the brutality of radical jihadists screams loudly of pure, simple hatred. They are known to us as ISIL, Al-Qaeda and Hezbollah. These groups do NOT define the Muslim religion any more than the white supremacy groups like the Ku Klux Klan, American Nazi, Aryan Nations, Christian Identity and 60 other groups who embrace Christianity.

Sixty-four Christian espoused supremacy groups are responsible for thousands of murders and hate crimes in the USA. Let’s call them what they are, radical Christian terrorists. Since September 11, 2001, nearly twice as many Americans have been killed by right-wing white Christian supremacists and antigovernment fanatics than by radical Muslims.

If you truly believe we should start limiting the rights of Muslims, then let’s get busy and also start rounding up members of 64 Christian-based white supremacy groups. We need to deal with A-L-L radical terrorists regardless of their proclaimed faith or non-faith.

It’s ironic and sad that our most loudly self-professed Christians are the predominant peddlers of ethnic and religious hate. Christian’s history mirrors the gruesome atrocities of today’s jihadists; Christians ruined the treasures of classical Greece and Rome and embraced witch burnings and after-church lynchings.

It is imperative that our leaders, especially candidates seeking the office of President, U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives, Iowa Senate and Iowa House of Representatives recognize this distinction in their rhetoric and diatribe. Fear mongering and prejudice, especially which is spewed by political candidates and their surrogates, only acerbates our problem.

Deep down I think we are afraid of the unknown, our spiritual values aren’t strong and we, basically, are uneducated.

Did you know that Muslims believe God revealed Holy books and scriptures to a number of God’s messengers? These include the Quran given to Muhammad, the Torah given to Moses, the Gospel given to Jesus, the Psalms given to David and the Scrolls given to Abraham. Like Judaism and Christianity, Islam teaches that there is one God in the universe and all three faiths believe in an afterlife.

If you extend beliefs to ALL Muslims based upon the actions of some ignorant radical jihadists, well then you too are an extremist version of whatever religion or nonreligion you uphold, permitting your self-righteousness and moral superiority to judge others as if you are God. Before casting stones on others, recognize that the word “self-righteousness” appears more than 500 times in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) and 200 times in Greek scripture (New Testament). If the shoe fits, walk carefully as what goes around comes around.

Many religious leaders are supporting the transition from an inflexible, exclusive, overbearing doctrine to a more tolerant, modern and progressive spiritual perspective. How are you doing in this journey? Are you becoming inflexible or flexible, exclusive or inclusive and overbearing or progressive?

To those who are worried about protecting their faith, relax. Your faith is protected in the United States of America Constitution and America’s Bill of Rights.

Let us recognize we live in a religiously plural world and are obligated to love our neighbors, ..., which I also struggle with at times.

Permit us to better understand each other, remove false stereotypes, and learn to see our neighbors as people rather than as representatives of a religious tradition or ideology.

As the infamous cartoonist Walt Kelley wrote on April 22, 1970 for his classic newspaper comic strip Pogo, which made slyly perspective comments about the state of the world and politics: “we have met the enemy and he is us.”

• Steve Corbin is emeritus professor of marketing at the University of Northern Iowa. Comments: Steven.B.Corbin@gmail.com

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