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Combat hatred through education

Letter to the Editor | Wednesday, October 1, 2003

In his Sept. 29 letter, Dan Martin claims that Seyyed Hossein Nasr “recycles the inane argument that those who have killed in the name of Islam are not true Muslims” in Nasr’s book, “The Heart of Islam.” What is inane about this argument and what does this statement imply about how Americans should view Islamic people?

Most members of the Klu Klux Klan were Christian Methodists and many members believed that they were doing the work of God by lynching African-Americans in the 1920s. Would it be “inane” to argue that these men were not true Methodists or should we associate all Southern Methodists with lynching innocent people? Such an argument is far from inane; the violence of religious extremists should not be attributed to all people of that religion.

By calling Nasr’s idea “inane,” Martin implies that Americans should consider the Sept. 11 terrorists against the United States to be true Muslims, that is, true representatives of Islam. Just as Southern Methodists of the Klu Klux Klan were not representatives of the Methodist religion, the terrorists are not representative of Islam. If we consider them to be so, all Muslims in America and abroad become murderers in our eyes and we become closed-minded.

Such closed-mindedness leads to another one of Martin’s frightening ideas. He writes that “Rather than engage in ‘intellectual discussion’ from an ivory tower, University officials should take a principled stand and strongly assert that Western secular democracy is superior to Islamic rule and make it clear that we as Americans and Catholics will not bow down to the uncivilized world.” Martin suggests that instead of facilitating discussion on the U.S. war on terrorism, the University should simply proclaim that America is “superior” to the “uncivilized” countries of the Middle East. Regardless of how one defines a “civilized” culture, this statement is problematic.

If the University carries out such an action, what will it achieve? Will Americans and Catholics be more patriotic and more proud of the United States? Perhaps, but the most devastating result would be that Notre Dame would be encouraging nativism and isolationism. If our society is better than those of other nations, why bother lowering ourselves to negotiate with them, respect their culture, and work towards peace for all humanity? Why bother trying to save the Iraqi people in Operation Iraqi Freedom?

We bother because all people in the world are equal. Democracy, advanced technology, economic success and relative domestic peace do not make United States citizens superior to those of other nations.

Martin has forgotten a belief sacred to the Catholic foundations of Notre Dame, that no religion or national identity or culture makes one human being superior to another. Arrogance and disrespect for those of one religion because of extremists and refusal to learn about other cultures will only encourage hatred against those who do not deserve it and will not solve the problem of terrorism.

Liz Bell


Pasquerilla West Hall

Sept. 29