In the opinion section of your Aug. 31 issue, Maureen DiRienzo cites some isolated Germany incidents with Muslim refugees to stoke our fears about exercising our historic American hospitality to host refugees here [“Take a Sober View of Refugees,” Xpress].
My experience with Muslim people has been quite different. While living for extended periods of time in countries where Muslims (and adherents of other religions) significantly outnumbered Christians (e.g., Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Palestine, Hong Kong, Korea) and visiting others for shorter periods of time (China, Japan, Vietnam, Cambodia, Israel), my wife and I have had nothing but the most cordial, constructive and harmonious relations with the local populations. Also, while actively sponsoring refugees in another U.S. locale, we found the experience to be stimulating and enriching.
In both types of experiences, we have been able to learn from other cultures, receive generous hospitality and put into practice American values of service, unselfishness and benevolence. When we allow our attitudes and behavior to be governed by fear and security concerns, we negate our rich national heritage of welcoming the stranger, forgo opportunities for learning and growth, and project a selfish, mean-spirited image to the world.
Sad to say, this latter attitude has seemed to prevail in our country ever since 9/11. Hate crimes against Muslims have tripled, exacerbated by irresponsible political rhetoric. Bigotry, hate mail, school bullying and (not always veiled) incitement to violence are openly expressed. Many American Muslims live in constant fear of rejection and persecution. The media focus on the negative, “terrorist” dimension, while stories about Muslim contributions to society, both here and abroad, are hard to find.
Hate, violence, intolerance and religious persecution have been practiced in every age, nation and culture — as much or more in so-called “Christian” eras and countries as in any other. Treatment of Native Americans, Chinese, Mormons, African-Americans, Jews, etc., in our history are prime examples.
Rather than “the pot calling the kettle black,” can we not put our best foot forward by reaching out with welcome and support for the “others” who are already here; open our hearts and homeland to human beings fleeing war, famine and persecution in places like Syria, Iraq, Nigeria, South Sudan and Burma; and support their desire and motivation to make a new life for themselves and become contributing members of our society, as the ancestors of most of us have always done?
— Doug Wingeier