Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Worry about a stamp commemorating Muslim holidays

An email is being circulated expressing concern about a new stamp being published by the American government commemorating two Muslim holidays. The Arabic script on the stamp says “Mubarak Eid” which translates “Eid Greetings” [See:]. An email is going around telling people not to buy this stamp because so many Americans have been killed by Muslims. [And no one knows what the Arabic means!]
Whoever is promoting this view seems unaware that there are over seven million Muslims living in this country, many of them citizens, many of them refugees from countries whose wars and internal disturbances have made life difficult and in some places untenable. Moreover, their concern ignores the fact that the Islamists that they refer to – Al Qaeda and others allied with them -- have killed far more Muslims than people of any other faith. Of the 1.4 billion Muslims in the world Al Qaeda cannot represent more than .007% of the total. Also their concerns about Islamic symbols play exactly into the hands of Osama Bin Laden who claims that the American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are fighting “Islam.”
This is a time when all over the Muslim world – notably at this moment in Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain, Iran – folks are asking through their public demonstrations for more open societies, in many cases at the risk of life and limb. The animating force of these movements is a desire for differences of opinion and faith to be tolerated in their societies as they seek popular suffrage of a sort they admire in this country. Not one of these demonstrations is animated by a desire to establish Islam or Muslim institutions in their governments.
This is a time, that is, to encourage our Muslim neighbors and friends, in the hope that as these affairs take place they will indeed succeed in producing societies with more openness of inquiry and more diversity of thought, even in faith and politics.
The behavior of those who would circulate such a notice prompts me to speak to them also, to encourage them to seek better ways to deal with what has become a fact of nature: that we are all living in a world whose diverse interests and perspectives and agendas are crowding in upon of us, forcing us to deal with the diversity of the human condition, requiring us to put into practice the fundamental premises of the American experiment: that is, to allow perspectives and opinions different from our own to be voiced, to accept those who have suffered, who need to be welcomed, no matter where they come from, what religion they practice. We want to demonstrate to each other and the rest of the world what an open society can be like.

[2/25/11 Addendum: Information on the artist who created the map, Muhammad Zikriya, can be found at:]

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