To the Editor:
Fear, a four letter word that has caused people to terrorize others. Fear paralyzes individuals and makes them distrust one another. Fear is used to make “us” hate “them.” Fear is the most valuable commodity on this earth and it will turn neighbor against neighbor.
Respect, a seven letter word that allows us to have an open mind and open heart. Respect creates a mutual understanding among us who make up the human race. Respect gives us the ability to listen to the other’s narrative and learn about them. What we need more than ever is to promote respect and coexistence.
We do not need words of intolerance to spread through our town.
“…Yet the Muslim community of Bayonne happily goes forward to build themselves their Islamic Center, when the nation(s) from which they emigrated would deny a similar right to Christians.”“We feel we have to give up our neighborhood….” “It’s a known fact a lot of these mosques are funded by oil money and terrorists. I’m concerned about safety and the quality of life here in Bayonne.” “We feel the community won’t be safe.” “We can’t just see our city overrun.”
If one wants to argue traffic as a problem, well, I am not a traffic engineer. However, if the argument against building the Muslim center is based on fear and intolerance, then I am an expert on that subject because I have studied it and teach my students about ways to counter these attitudes. I can tell you that the only thing that hate will bring is more hate. Hate and fear is what caused violence and murder in Patchogue, New York in 2008 and in Oak Creek, Wisconsin in 2012. Are we going to wait until it is too late to come together and treat each other with respect and compassion? I am very certain that the argument against the construction of the Muslim center revolves around fear and hate because of the letters that have been circulating around town and the letters that have been placed in my students’ mailboxes in addition to the hate being spewed in the papers and online.
I implore those who are resistant to the community center to sit down and speak with the Muslim members of our town. I am with them every day in our high school and I am with many of them on Sundays in Journal Square feeding the homeless. Learn about them and let them learn about you because the only way that we are going coexist is if we learn to respect and appreciate each other.
I hope that we can move on from what has transpired over the last few months because we cannot poison our children, students and community with hate. If we truly want to make a difference and promote unity we cannot act like the extremists who deny people of their rights. Let us be a community of love, compassion and acceptance. In closing I would like you to think of the words of Abraham Lincoln: “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”