American Muslims Must Accept That They Are Not Equivalent to Real Americans
by Sheila Musaji
In the October 25th edition of the St. Louis Post Dispatch, there was a curious commentary entitled Tolerance — not acceptance — of other cultural traditions by Z. Dwight Billingsly, yet another misguided soul who believes that America is a “Christian” nation.
Mr. Billingsly is upset that a Chicago school district has allowed Muslim students to have crescent moons and stars to mark Ramadan included in school decorations along with decorations for other holidays like Christmas that already are included in the schools.
The Muslim parent who made the original request to have Muslim students’ holidays also included did not request that any existing celebrations be cancelled, only to include another. I can’t imagine that the “test” for any school district would be anything other than the numbers of students represented in the local community. For example, if there are a lot of Jewish students, then Hannukah should be included, etc.
Mr Billingsly finds this a failure of “mainstream” Americans, not even realizing the xenophobia and Islamophobia he is expressing with this expression. Are Muslim students not “mainstream”, are they marginal, unimportant, inferior, or simply unacceptable.
According to Mr. Billingsley:
“In other words, mainstream Americans had agreed to subordinate their cultural traditions and accept another culture’s traditions as equivalent to their own. This is a prescription for our society’s destruction, a dangerous appeasement in the cultural wars. The school board should have told the Muslim parent that America’s cultural norm is to celebrate and value Christmas, not Ramadan. The board should have told her that if she wanted to celebrate Ramadan in her home or at her mosque, she was welcome to do so, but that at public schools, only Christmas and other traditional American cultural celebrations would take place.”
Actually, Christmas is a celebration of the majority population of the U.S. - Christians. The U.S. Constitution does not say that only the traditions of Christianity are to be “celebrated” or “valued”.
“To me, “inclusion” means “tolerance,” nothing more. We’ve all heard the stories about public institutions and private businesses taking steps to accommodate Muslim sensibilities — removing pork from school menus, for example — in sharp contrast to their increasing aversion to expressions of Judeo-Christian faith. This amounts to intrusive minorities and liberal elites telling the rest of us what we and our families are required to accept or recognize or accommodate, including things that fall outside our own values in our daily lives.”
Accommodating minorities what a shocking idea. Let’s see, if there are a lot of Muslim or Jewish students in a school then rather than accomodating them and having something they can eat that doesn’t include pork, they can bring their own lunch or eat p-nut butter and jelly every day. Anything else would amount to possibly losing the God-given and Constitutionally mandated obligation of all “true Americans” to eat pork. Perhaps we finally have a way to weed out the undesirable aliens from our society - anyone who doesn’t eat pork must go.
Billingsly goes even further:
“What we should be saying is that in the public square — in our public schools and other public places — mainstream American values and beliefs will prevail and that they must accept that. They can be a part of our cultural traditions if they choose to be, but we will not recognize their traditions as equivalent to ours because in our eyes, they aren’t. They can be included, but that means that their traditions will be tolerated, not elevated to equivalence with the traditional American cultural norms.”
Wow, not only should minorities not be accommodated, but we need them to understand clearly that any foolish religious beliefs or customs that they might hold are not “equivalent” to our so much more valuable and important religious beliefs and customs. Preferably we should make sure they understand the inferiority of their religious beliefs and social customs from an early age, grade school would be a good place to start. The sooner they learn their place and understand their inferiority the better.
And, Mr. Billingsly kindly allows Muslim, Arab, and other “non-mainstream” children to be included in this society. Would their inclusion be at someone’s whim, could they be deported or interned at some unamed time if folks like him decided that they weren’t really worth being included.
“I am not disparaging anyone or anyone’s beliefs or cultures. People are people and inherently deserving of respect. But I will not accept or recognize or accommodate those beliefs and cultures as if they were equal to the traditional beliefs and cultures of America. Rather, I choose to tolerate them. That does not mean exclusion or rejection. It means that I will not sacrifice what is American culture to make another group feel better about living in proximity to it.”
I guess the best Muslims can hope for is to be allowed to live in “proximity” to American culture. And, the Jews, Sikhs, Hindus, Native Americans, and anyone else who does not fit Billingsly’s idea of what a mainstream American should be can also be tolerated to live in “proximity” to American culture, but not be an integral part of it. Wow, so that’s what my brother served in Vietnam for, and my father fought in WWII for, and my great uncle fought in WWI for, I’m certain they would be proud that their sacrifice guaranteed my right to be tolerated and live in proximity to real Americans.
(Note: I wrote an article about this question of holidays back in 1992 - Christmas as a “secular American” holiday?. It doesn’t seem as if we are progressing.