Washington, DC – (TFC) In the height of the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King Jr. would not have been blamed for taking up arms to wage war against white America. His fellow African Americans were denied basic civil rights, and treated like second class citizens, but even after the worst crimes against African Americans had been committed, he refused to hate. That resolve is not matched in present day America where Muslims are being attacked by bigoted Americans who see every Muslim as a terrorist.
The date was September 18, 1963, the setting was Birmingham, Alabama. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. returned to the city to eulogize three of the four little black girls who were murdered three days before in the infamous 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing. MLK, like African Americans all over the country, was heartbroken over four children being murdered before they had experienced any sort of life. When he spoke at the funeral of Addie Mae Collins, Carol Denise McNair, and Cynthia Diane Wesley he spoke of unity and forgiveness when he said,
“And so I stand here to say this afternoon to all assembled here, that in spite of the darkness of this hour, we must not despair. We must not become bitter, nor must we harbor the desire to retaliate with violence. No, we must not lose faith in our white brothers. Somehow we must believe that the most misguided among them can learn to respect the dignity and the worth of all human personality.”
Three days after four young children were viciously murdered in an act of savage bigotry, America’s most loved civil rights leader did not demand revenge. He chose not to encourage every African American in the country to wipe out every white person that they saw on the streets. Even after years of white racists rounding up black men to them hang on trees at the encouragement of the deranged crowds, who thought lynching was the best thing to view on a Saturday; King did not feel the need to eradicate white people from the earth. Despite being doused by fire hoses and beaten by cops; King did not use the church bombing to harden his heart and view white Americans as his enemy. He never wavered from his commitment to love every one of God’s children.
More than 50 years later, the idea of loving your perceived enemies has been lost. The thought of refusing to cast out entire races or religions because of the actions of certain individuals has been replaced by a mentality that all Muslims are evil terrorists in training.
In what many have called a murder over a parking spot, three Muslims were murdered in Chapel Hill, South Carolina by 46-year-old Craig Hicks who was a vitriolic critic of all religions. His “respect for the Abrahamic religions,” was eradicated after 9/11, which is the typical point where anti-Muslim bigotry thrives. Various publications have linked to his Facebook page to showcase his anti-religious views, where he confessed to hating Islam, and argued Atheism is the only way to fix the problems in the Middle East.
Of course Hicks’ anti-religious beliefs have not been proven to be the reason he killed three young Muslims, but the debate that rages is an example of the way many Americans views Muslims, and how their hatred is the antithesis of everything Dr. King preached.
Hatred of Muslims was showcased when the Quba Islamic Institute was set ablaze in Houston. A homeless man with a long criminal history has been charged with arson. At a probable cause hearing, the prosecution claimed Darryl Ferguson told a convenience store clerk that he hated Muslims. In response to the arson, people took to the institute’s Facebook page to claim the arson was revenge for 9/11, and “divine intervention.” Many took to the page to condemn the bigotry, and others applauded the destruction of the mosque with one Facebook user who calls himself a Muslim hunter, relaying lyrics from the Rancid song ‘Burn’ that read, “We don`t need no water, let that mother fucker burn, ” which echoes the comments made by a man claiming to be a volunteer firefighter.
Muslims all over America now fear the murders in Chapel Hill are just the beginning. Duke University Imam Abdullah Antepli told The Huffington Post that he constantly checked his phone to hear from his wife whom he feared may have been in danger for wearing a hijab, and even kept his son home from school after the shooting. Shamira Lukomwa, who heads the Muslim Students Association at UNC admitted she has felt anti-Muslim bigotry many times at her school.
The events in Houston and Chapel Hill are just a couple of events that could cause Muslims in America to be fearful. Since 9/11 anti-Muslim hate crimes have soared to more than five times the rate before the terrorist attack. Since the Twin Towers fell, Muslims all over the world have had to explain themselves, and have taken the blame for the acts that they are not responsible for.
The threat of Islamic terrorism is real, but so was the fear in white racists killing, or beating African Americans for wanting equal rights under the law. Churches being bombed, civil rights advocates being murdered, and King spending many nights in a jail cell did not compel him to move away from love. He believed in his heart that evil had seeped into the souls of those who held water hoses and burned crosses, and that those who wanted him dead, deep down were good people.
Of course some Muslims have done the exact opposite of King, and are hell bent on destroying America, but if it is wrong to think all Christians are defined by the actions of the Westboro Baptist Church, then hatred towards all Muslims is not justified because some extremists within their religion are guilty of planning deadly attacks. Any attack on Muslims for being Muslim will not bring an end to terror, and will only cause an even greater divide in the world.
“Let no man pull you so low as to hate him. Always avoid violence. If you succumb to the temptation of using violence in your struggle, unborn generations will be the recipients of a long and desolate night of bitterness, and your chief legacy to the future will be an endless reign of meaningless chaos.”
It is those words that must guide us to the end of a war that none of us wants to give our children. Hate spreads through generations, and will condemn us all to hell.