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fussing over Arabic US postage stamps

August 25, 2011

My dear friend forwarded an email to me that made me want to shake (don’t shake the baby!) a lot of people.  And I quote:

“The ball of dung keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger!  Apparently  they think that putting hearts and butterflies  on the new stamp will make most people not realize that the rest is Arabic and probably not  something we want to support.

USPS  New 44-Cent Stamp Celebrates a Muslim  holiday.
If there is only ONE thing you forward today.. let it be  this!

President  Obama has directed the United States Postal  Service to REMEMBER and HONOR the EID MUSLIM  holiday season with a new commemorative 44-Cent  First Class Holiday Postage Stamp.

REMEMBER to adamantly & vocally BOYCOTT this stamp,  when you are purchasing your stamps at the post  office.
All you have to say is  “No  thank you, I do not want that Muslim Stamp on my  letters!”  

Pass this  along to every Patriotic  American that you  know and get the word out!   Honor  the United States of America ! “

I mean REALLY?! Of all the things to fuss about, you fuss about this?  Why don’t you fuss about the Jewish Hanukkuah stamps?  Or the Christian Christmas stamps?  How about those Kwanzaa stamps?   Not to mention that the stamp in question isn’t even put out BY USPS but by (Actually it seems that stamp is no longer available but there are plenty of others.)

This chain email (for that is what it is really) reminded me of a blog I read over on written by Progressive Christian Greg Garrett.  A particular paragraph jumped out at me when I read it and I was reminded of it again when I received the above email:

“And yet the truth is that Muslim Americans love America, and are here not to spread their faith or impose Sharia (as though that would be an easy task, or Sharia a codified system of laws), but for the reasons people have always come to America: to live with dignity, to worship freely, to pursue their dreams…”

Is that so wrong?  Yes there are bad Muslims out there…there are also bad Christians, Jews, Hindus, Pagans, etc.  Mr. Garrett linked to an article from which he pulled the perfect quote on this:

“[Muslim Americans] embrace American values and democratic principles but aren’t sure if the rest of American embraces them”

What makes us non-Muslims any better than them?  One religious groups is no more special or worse than any other.   Muslim Americans certainly have to try harder than I ever have.  Only 56-70% (depending upon the religious group polled) believed that Muslim-Americans did NOT have sympathy for Al Qaeda.  Do people really assume that Al Qaeda speaks for all Muslims?!  Really?!  That’s like saying that the NFL speaks for all sport fans!

Below is an example of what Muslim-Americans deal with on a daily basis (taken from here,  a post by Wajahat Ail):

“Pre-9/11, I was another awkward, well intentioned, multi-hyphenated Muslim American with exotic dietary habits who prayed five times a day and drank chai instead of alcohol during college.

Post-9/11, I received a special screening in front of my fellow passengers who boarded the plane to North Carolina while observing my Muslim security clearance zoo exhibit…For the first time in my life, my fellow airline passengers all looked at me with utter fear, eyed widened and mouths agape. My brown face, five o’clock shadow and inconvenient TSA screening immediately profiled and lumped me as one of “them” who attacked “us” on 9/11.  My attempts to placate them with friendly smiles and nods only intensified their palpable anxiety, and their discomfort turned to horrified stares…I had never terrified anyone by merely “being” me.  It was a jarring and disturbing experience.”

I don’t know about you but that would make me not only never want to fly again but to also isolate myself within my religious community.  Which is pretty much what they’ve done.  This is a mistake and will only further our fears and their persecution.  The writer of the above agrees:

“Muslim Americans also share blame due to hermitically sealing themselves in an isolated, cultural cocoon and not proactively engaging civic society in wider numbers. One cannot expect change by sitting in the stands as an ineffectual spectator, content with being an irate cultural consumer instead of a productive cultural producer and participant.  The only way to experience reconciliation and healing is to engage in honest self reflection and face the tragedy of that day—with its subsequent collateral damage—head on.  Without an honest dialogue, we’re simply shadow boxing.

So, here we are, nearly ten years later, with that ubiquitous symbolic icon of “terror” now vanquished.  However, we have yet to bury and forget the bigotry, stereotypes, hate, and unfounded fears that were born and nurtured as a reaction to a few men’s perverse deeds.  Americans are enjoying this moment of collective relief; this moment of well earned catharsis.  But, tomorrow we will wake up and realize that we still have a long way to go in battling extremism and ignorance.  Ten years later, at least many of us now understand that the only way forward is by embarking on this journey together. We have also earned and learned the valuable lesson that if we are to truly change ourselves, then the only way to escape our shadow is to finally confront it.”

So how about it America?  Are you going to continue to box at shadows or are you going to face your fears?  Learn about Islam.  Meet some Muslims.  Find out that they really are no different from you despite religious methodology.  If you can’t do that at least remember that “Freedom of Religion” is a founding principle of our country!  Which means, Muslim-Americans have as much right to a religious-themed postage stamp as you do!

Now where can I get some Pagan-themed stamps?

13 Comments leave one →
  1. August 25, 2011 3:16 PM

    As someone who is married to a muslim (and utterly adores his family), all I can say is very well put! There are always a few bad apples regardless of what group we are looking at but that doesn’t mean that we should throw out the whole barrel. This is supposed to be a country founded on the ideal of religious tolerance….so yeah get with the program people. All most folks want is to live their lives in relative peace, not to become your boogieman.


  2. August 25, 2011 3:17 PM

    Oh yes…and where are MY Olympian themed stamps I want to know LOL


  3. August 25, 2011 3:24 PM

    Why is it not possible to object to an idea without being automatically a bigot against people who ascribe to it?


  4. August 25, 2011 3:30 PM

    Why object to it and call it patriotism? Objecting to all religious stamps across the board wouldn’t even solicit a comment from me. Objecting to one because of Muslim connotations is bigoted.


    • August 30, 2011 2:12 PM

      What if someone objects to Islam and not other religions, because they think Islam in particular, as a religion, is antithetical to American civic values?

      Whether or not I would agree with that person, I am bothered by the idea that it is “bigoted” to object to Islam; Islam is an idea, and I believe that a fundamental part of freedom is the ability to freely criticize and oppose all ideas. I don’t think ideas should get special treatment or be immune to criticism because they happen to be religious ideas.

      I appreciate that there is a fine and problematic line between objecting to an idea (like Islam), and objecting to an identifiable cultural group that subscribes to the idea, but they can’t just reflexively be conflated.


      • August 30, 2011 3:04 PM

        Hmmm how do I explain this, especially since I am not as well spoken/written as you…the email was protesting the stamp because of the writing upon it and attributing all sorts of false information. Then it pushed the patriotic button that many have since 9/11. One can disagree with Islam all they like but saying that a Muslim American does not have the right to have a stamp commemorating their beliefs when there are plenty of other US religious stamps is bigoted. I disagree with a lot of the Christian belief system but I do not protest their right to a stamp and neither do I call them unpatriotic for doing so.

        I admit I know very little about Islam but I also know better than going with a knee-jerk response such as this. There are many Muslims in the world and most of them do not worship their God by violent means. I do not believe the whole belief ought to be condemned for the faults of the violent.

        So if this email stated rational arguments against Islam, I would never have commented or found it irritating. Instead they pulled the ol’ “be patriotic” card.


        • August 31, 2011 1:20 PM

          Don’t sell yourself too short; you’re plenty articulate.

          I imagine that what bothers you is that there’s often an unspoken current of actual racism lurking under the surface. In other words, while a person may be saying they object to the religion of Islam, you suspect that they really object to it because it’s a brown people’s religion and they don’t like brown people.

          And for a lot of “critics” of Islam, I do indeed suspect that is the case. But it does a great disservice to liberty to set Islam–or any other religion–as off-limits to criticism because you don’t like the motivation of the critics.

          What if there was a hypothetical religion that was inarguably anti-American? Setting aside Islam, what if there was a new religion, making up a significant minority in the US that taught, as an explicit, basic principle of faith that God demands the establishment of a religious dictatorship, the silence of dissent punishable by death, and the reduction of women to property?

          Would such a religion also have the right to a postage stamp? I think we can agree that the freedom of people to believe and practice their religion is a fundamental right, but how bad does a religion have to be before it no longer makes sense to say its adherents have a right to a postage stamp celebrating it?


  5. August 26, 2011 1:23 AM

    Blinking ‘eck Melia! That is horrible, do people boycott all German people and products? What about Japanese? I’m sorry it was a small group of nutters and everyone gets tarred, sheesh ……. I’m with you on this one, I have no problems


  6. August 26, 2011 8:16 AM

    have no problems with Muslims, most of the time they are like the rest of us, just want to get on with life


  7. August 31, 2011 1:32 PM

    Don’t sell yourself too short; you’re plenty articulate.

    thank you Kullervo.

    how bad does a religion have to be before it no longer makes sense to say its adherents have a right to a postage stamp celebrating it?

    That is a good question. I don’t know. Probably when it starts curbing the rights of other Americans as I believe strongly in the separation of religious institutions and government. I just didn’t feel like this was a critique but an emotional outlash trumpeting what is and is not patriotic. Actually, if I was grand poobah, there would be no religious stamps, only secular, but for some reason I have not been elected…


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