There are a lot of scary things in the world.
There�s the �fun-scary� -- kids who dress up as clowns,
monsters, or fairy princesses once a year to get a month�s supply of candy,
which they�ll finish off by morning.
There�s scary movies, from �Jaws� to �Friday the 13th� to --
well -- �Scary Movie.�
The murder mystery genre -- in books, TV, and film -- can
scare even the least gullible. What�s even scarier is that there were about 1.4
million violent crimes last year; about 17,000 of them were murders, about 89
percent from firearms, according to the FBI.
Poverty, the deterioration of the environment, and Dick
Cheney are all scary.
But the scariest of all is ignorance, hatred, and bigotry,
wrapped within the cloak of fear.
This past week, along with a mini-mail list of about 60, I
received an e-mail from a friend. She�s a nice lady, relatively bright, and
active in community affairs. The e-mail has been around for several years, but
is refreshed every year between Halloween and Christmas. As is custom,
thousands who receive it forward it to thousands of others who are asked to
boycott stamps that honor Muslim holidays. The first lines of the e-mail are
bold. �How ironic is this??!!� it screams at us. �They don�t even believe in
Christ and they�re getting their own Christmas stamp . . ." The
graphics-laden e-mail displays a 37-cent postage stamp. The rest of the e-mail,
all in bold type and colors, tells us that we are supposed to remember the
�MUSLIM bombing of Pan Am Flight 103,� the �MUSLIM bombing of the World Trade
Center in 1993,� and the �MUSLIM� bombings of the military barracks in Saudi
Arabia and American embassies in Africa, the U.S.S. Cole, and 9/11.
We are told not only to �remember to adamantly and vocally
boycott this stamp,� but that buying this stamp �would be a slap in the face to
all those AMERICANS who died at the hands of those whom this stamp honors.� We
are urged to forward the e-mail to �every patriotic American you know.�
The stamp, according to the U.S. Postal Service, was issued
to commemorate Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, considered by Muslims as the two
most important festivals in their calendar year. The calligraphy in the center
of the stamp translates literally as �blessed festival,� or more loosely as,
�May your religious holiday be blessed.� The stamp was first issued on Sept. 1,
2001, and then reissued in 2002, 2006, and in September this year to reflect
Although the Post Office each year issues a stamp to honor
Christmas, it also issues a non-denominational holiday stamp. It also issues
stamps to honor Chanukah and Kwanzaa.
Those who write and forward the e-mails of intolerance don�t
understand, and probably never will, that while some Muslim extremists were at
the heart of some terrorist plots, they don�t represent Islam or any other
religion. If we believe that the few Muslim terrorists represent the entire
religion, we must then go to the absurdity of believing that we should boycott
all Christmas stamps because some Christian extremists destroyed the federal
building in Oklahoma City and murdered 178 and wounded more than 800. We would
have to boycott the Christmas stamp because God-fearing Christians lynched as
many as 10,000 Americans -- most of them Black but many of whom were Jews,
Italians, and Irish -- in the century after the Civil War. We would condemn
Christianity because of the Inquisitions of the 15th and 16th centuries. We
would blame the Protestants and the Catholics for a religious civil war in
Northern Ireland that led to the deaths of more than 3,700 in a four-decade
period. We would never speak favorably of any German or millions of other
Europeans because the Nazis and their collaborators, good Christians all,
launched the holocaust that led to the murders of 12 million and a war that
claimed more than 50 million lives, most of them civilian.
On Halloween, we see pre-teen girls cutely dressed as
witches, happily going door to door for candy, and we readily help them get the
sugar-kick they expect every Oct. 31. We don�t condemn these pretend-witches,
unlike Christians of the 17th century America who burned and drowned women
because they were �witches.�
Every religion has its militant extremists who violate laws
and commandments against murder, but every religion has people of peace who
believe in love and tolerance. Indeed, by condemning all Muslims, we also
condemn ourselves to ignorance, hatred, bigotry, and fear.Dr.
Walter Brasch is professor of journalism at Bloomsburg University, a former
newspaper reporter and editor, and author of 17 books. His latest book is Sinking
the Ship of State: The Presidency of George W. Bush.