Christians also capable of radicalism

Freedom New Mexico

Nine years after the horrific terrorist attacks, this year’s annual commemoration turned into one of the most contentious yet.

The events, which brought some pent-up resentment to the fore, could also be a learning experience for many people — or a “teachable moment,” for those who presume to be the ruling class, like President Obama.

Announced plans to sell an abandoned Burlington Coat Factory two blocks from the World Trade Center to a group that wants to establish an Islamic cultural center brought out opponents who thought it would be disrespectful to those who died in the 2001 attacks. One Florida preacher even called for a “Burn a Koran (sic) Day,” to show hatred for Muslims.

Those events, and reaction to them, should remind us that all people, regardless of nationality, ethnicity or religion, have the same tendencies, and a similar sense of justice. Radical elements can be found in any group, but they don’t represent the majority. The Quran-burning preacher reportedly has just 50 official followers.

Despite the opposition to the Islamic center in New York, many have defended the organizers’ right to use private property as they see fit. And the minister called off his Quran-burning party after a vocal majority of Americans called his plans unwarranted and incendiary.

In the end, people recognized this guy was an extremist who didn’t express the views of most Christians. Likewise, those who commit crimes in the name of Islam aren’t the norm either. Support for the cultural center indicates that most clear-thinking Americans appreciate that truth as well.

Evidence of that fact was found in several places. Some people were inspired by the Florida preacher, and announced their own book burnings. Few of them actually occurred. One person who reportedly intended to set fire to a Quran in Amarillo was foiled when a young man on a skateboard zipped by, grabbed the book and took it to the leader of that city’s Islamic Center. Christian churches in Vermont and elsewhere held public readings of the Quran to show the primary messages of that scripture, like the overriding themes of the Christian Bible, promote redemption, responsibility and peace.

Perhaps last weekend reminded people that even though a majority of Americans are Protestant Christians, Islam is no more foreign to this country than Judaism, Catholicism or any other religion or denomination. It’s also worth remembering the stories from our old history books about so many of our nation’s settlers coming to this country specifically in search of religious freedom.

If last weekend brought those facts to the attention of more people, and helped them appreciate that Christian radicals are just as dangerous as radical Muslims, and that the radicals are but a small part of both groups, then perhaps the unrest can lead us to a constructive resolution.