I've been reflecting over the past few months on my experience as a second-class citizen, socially and legally -- informally and formally -- as a Pagan. Oh, sure, we technically share the same protections as everyone else under the US Constitution, but it doesn't actually work out that way in reality for Pagans.
(My "favorite" case in point these days is my colleague Patrick McCollum's experience in CA, and how in the lawsuit McCollum v. California, folks really do make a legal argument that some religions are legally "better" than others, and that folks from certain religions deserve more legal recognition -- and differential access to jobs -- than folks from other religions: specifically, that the First Amendment to the US Constitution applies only to religions that existed at the time of the framing of the Constitution. Hoo, boy.)
(And that's not even touching my literal legal second-class citizenship as a lesbian. (Click here to read some of what I've written about my experience with that in the last year.)
But over the last few weeks, I've been reflecting that while I may be a second-class citizen in my own country when it comes to my religion, my Muslim neighbors must be feeling like third-class citizens.
These reflections started with the brouhaha about the so-called, non-existent "Ground Zero Mosque." It's not at Ground Zero, and it's not a mosque. (For more information, see Park 51's FAQs and the Cordoba Initiative's FAQs.)
If we look at the things that do exist within a mile of Ground Zero -- of the site of the former World Trade Center in NYC, the site of the September 11, 2001 attacks in NYC -- it's clear that too many people in America consider it more patriotic to operate a strip club, or a church, than to operate a Muslim community center -- than to help American Muslims reclaim Islam from extremists. (Hat tip to Daryl Lang.)
Do we have a problem with the sculpture "And Jesus Wept" at the site of the former Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City? Even though a Christian extremist was responsible for that bombing?
And in the discussion of the non-existent "ground zero mosque," American Muslims are been getting treated like crap.
But, wait! It gets better! Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida -- doves being a symbol of peace, remember -- is hosting International Burn-a-Qu'ran Day on September 11, 2010, because "Islam is of the Devil."
Two pieces of good news: 1) The First Amendment protects their right to burn books, even if it doesn't guarantee them a fire permit. 2) Other local religious leaders are not taking this sitting down: the Gainesville Interfaith Forum, comprised of Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Hindus, are hosting a "Gathering for Peace, Understanding, and Hope" the night before.
But let's be honest, folks. American Muslims are the targets of hate crimes all the time. We just don't hear about it. American Muslims, and mosques in America, have had to cope with this particularly since September 11th, 2001, as if all Muslims were responsible for the behavior of a group of extremists. We don't act as if all Christians were responsible for the behavior of the extremists who were responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing. But we act like all Muslims are responsible for September 11th.
But wait, you're saying. I don't act like that.
Well, what do you do to stop it? When people bad-mouth Muslims around you, do you speak out against it?
Personally not blaming Muslims ourselves is no longer enough. Not in today's political and cultural climate.
On the radio today, I heard a guest on WHYY's Radio Times talking about how Muslims in America are afraid of violence directed against them personally on the upcoming anniversary of September 11th.
And that's just wrong.
No one -- no one -- in this country should be afraid they will be attacked physically because of their religion.
And that statement brought back memories.
Of September 11th, 2001 in Philadelphia.
Of the aftermath.
Of the bomb threats at my Meetinghouse.
Of how it felt like my entire workplace, my entire family, the entire world around me, was demanding vengeance.
Of not knowing where friends, family, and loved ones were -- including folks in the military, folks on commercial airplanes that day, and folks overseas.
Of threats to bomb Afghanistan "back to the Stone Age."
Memories of Americans being attacked for being suspected of being Middle Eastern.
Memories of American Muslim women -- regardless of race -- who wore the hijab, or headscarf, being attacked and harassed, and so either leaving their headscarves at home, or simply not leaving home -- becoming prisoners in their own homes to hate.
Memories of Quaker women I knew wearing headscarves of some sort in solidarity with the women of Afghanistan and with American Muslim women.
I came late to scarf solidarity that year, but wore a headscarf for a good month or so -- October? November? As long as I was led. I still wore long, full skirts frequently then, and probably looked more Jewish than anything else. Still, it felt important.
One co-worker looked at me worriedly and said, "But Stasa, what if people think you're Muslim?" Exactly, I told her. "But you're not. I mean, you're obviously not." Exactly, I told her. She didn't get it. The idea is to make people think, I explained. She was still nervous for me.
I have been wondering: is it time for scarf solidarity again?
I looked up scarf solidarity when I got home today, and found the story of Jennifer Schock's Scarves for Solidarity Campaign originally planned for October 8, 2001; I also found this article from the LA Times.
Jennifer did her homework. She talked to Muslim women. She called local mosques, Muslim associations, and Islamic centers. I haven't done any of that work yet. I have tried to reach Jennifer, but haven't been successful (yet).
Is it time for scarf solidarity again? If so, on September 11th, 2010? Longer? Coinciding with Eid al-Fitr at the end of Ramadan - ? (September 9th, this year.)