How do we know what to believe?

Published 11:38 am Friday, August 27, 2010

Recently the national news has been inundated with conversation about whether or not our president is a Muslim and whether or not we should permit a mosque to be built in Manhattan.

With all of the arguments about each point, how do we, as caring observers, distinguish which arguments bear the greatest merit?

Or, are all arguments equal…and any speaker as right, or as wrong, as any other speaker?

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Our history and actions actually guide us in this regard. On the most basic level as one who has lived in Ohio for several decades if someone comes to me and insists it will snow in Ohio in August, I would disbelieve that claim. Experience teaches me otherwise. So too with both of these current issues, our experience with discerning facts from claims should guide us.

Someone says the President is a Muslim.

Therefore all those who dislike the policies of the president begin to question his religion, not saying he is Muslim, but saying they do not know.

But there is evidence.

First, the President says he is Christian.

He not only says so today, he has said so publically over two decades.

He has been a member of a Christian church for over two decades.

He eats pork. He does not have a prayer rug, or pray facing Mecca five times a day.

He has never been a member of a mosque.

No one has ever seen him practice the Islamic faith.

There is no evidence he is Muslim.

There is evidence he is Christian.

But someone said he is Muslim so we must value their perception, for they may be right.

We must de-value Obama’s perception, for he may be misleading us.

That form of logic undermines all rational thought, where no evidence trumps experience and fact.

Now comes an Imam who says he wishes to build a mosque and community center.

He has a past as a peaceful Imam.

He has a lifelong reputation.

He has been used as a bridge-builder between Islam and Christianity by both presidents, Bush and Obama.

Someone says his plan is to insult Americans and claim triumph over America, though this has never been characterized by his past.

Others rally to the false claim.

Then people across the nation who think maybe all Muslims are terrorists rise to support the false claim.

Then some say we cannot know his intent, for he may, in spite of his long history in the public sphere, be deceiving us. And those who are challenging him, though they have no facts, may be right in their accusations.

Logic becomes useless, for senselessness trumps fact, history and common sense. And those who ignore his past and present have an equal right to claim his motivation in this world turned upside down.

Both the claims that Obama is a Muslim and the claims that the mosque is in any way related to the attacks of 9/11 are easily dispensed as false.

Obama is no more a Muslim that Billy Graham is Jewish. And the Imam and the building of the mosque is no more an affront to 9/11 than the WW II memorial is an affront to veterans.

Those who attacked us on 9/11 were not representative of Islam any more than Jim Jones was representative of Christianity.

It is time to begin our healing and, in doing so to cast aside the blind rage that consumed us after 9/11.

Nothing can bring back those innocent lives lost for no reason, and nothing can ever justify the actions taken by those hateful few.

Jim Crawford is a contributing columnist for The Tribune and a former educator at Ohio University Southern.