‘Obsession' not an effort at honest, open dialogue

From Shaun Ahmad, of the Mecklenburg Ministries Board of Directors.

Freedom of speech and expression are extremely important yet even these freedoms rightfully have limitations. You cannot yell fire in a crowded movie theater. In many parts of Europe you cannot deny the Holocaust. Don Imus was fired by CBS Radio for making an overtly racist comment on air.

One of the significant cultural misunderstandings that occurs today is around the making of disparaging remarks regarding Islam. This is a result of different historical and cultural experiences.

For example, people outside of the United States do not have the same experience with racism that people in the United States do.

This is not to say that racism doesn't exist outside the U.S. but simply that the racism that was experienced in America was so exceptionally ugly and painful that there is extreme sensitivity and no tolerance for this behavior today. People not familiar with America have a difficult time understanding our sensitivities because they simply cannot relate.

In the Muslim world, people with different religions were able to live peacefully side by side for over 1300 years because of the basic principle of not belittling people whose religion was different.

To ridicule someone's religion especially through such a public medium as radio/newspaper/television was and is absolutely socially unacceptable.

Of course, I'm not trying to stop a dialogue that is critical of Islam. In fact, an honest and open dialogue would be welcomed by most Muslims. What concerns me about the Obsession DVD that The Observer and other papers distributed last week is that this appears to be more of a smear campaign rather than an attempt to dialogue. The makers of the film compare Muslim crowds to Nazis and Muslim leaders to Hitler. Additionally on-screen pundits claim that “Islam is not the religion of God – Islam is the devil.”

The Charlotte Observer should have every right to publish and distribute whatever it wants. And people of faith should work to end all forms of bigotry including Islamophobia.