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Asking the clergy: What is the best way to fight religious hatred?

Earl Y. Thorpe Jr.

Earl Y. Thorpe Jr. Photo Credit: Church-in-the-Garden

About 20 percent of hate crimes involve anti-religious bias, according to a recent FBI report. If your religion teaches you to love others, how do you respond to hate speech and vile acts such as defacing public spaces with swastikas? This week’s clergy discuss the appropriate reaction to the current spate of hate crimes.

The Rev. Earl Y. Thorpe Jr.

Pastor, Church-in-the-Garden, Garden City

To fight religious hatred one has to get to the root of the problem, which is hatred. How do we fight hatred? Hatred, being the byproduct of fear and the opposite of love, can only be fought and won by addressing fear and implementing love. It must start early in one’s life. Fear of another’s thinking, action, experience is usually predicated on our own limited knowledge and the privileging of that knowledge.

I think it is incumbent upon us to expose ourselves to things that are different from ourselves and be humble enough to realize that our own experience isn’t normative to everyone else. Yet, we may come to realize we may have many shared experiences in common. Moreover, when we learn not to privilege our own experiences, we create atmospheres of awareness that lead to genuine dialogue that gives insights into others’ lives.

This is the foundational step to addressing fear. Creating familiarity with that which we fear. Familiarity is the enemy of fear. The challenge then is to recognize that addressing one’s own fear and promoting love require sustained effort. It is recognition that hatred of any kind is a lazy cop-out. It clearly demonstrates that instead of engaging in the real work of discovery of our own foibles, biases and working on our own preconceived notions of others, we would rather easily submit to ill-informed ideas and simplistic generalizations that superficially seem sound but are deeply flawed.

Dr. Yousuf U. Syed

Trustee, Islamic Association of Long Island, The Selden Mosque

Hate is generated due to fear, ignorance, suspicion and socio-economic conditions and challenges. According to the Islamic perspective, patience and forbearance are extremely important. Vengeance will be met with vengeance — retaliation never leads to peace. Religious hatred is not new. This has been going on because of ignorance of one another’s faith. Man is not the enemy of man, but his ignorance is. Religious hatred never ceases through hatred, but through love, justice, knowledge and mutual respect for one another’s faith. In America, it is unfortunate that the majority of us do not read the Scriptures of one another’s faith, but we certainly have strong opinions, without facts. True knowledge of one another’s faith, love, kindness, mutual dialogues, interfaith understanding, trust and respect are essential to counter the religious hatred due to ignorance. Hate is evil, and evil begets evil. A bad mental state shapes the evil words and deeds that cause so much suffering. A spiritual and God-conscious mind is free of hate. Islam requires us to worship God and to have mercy on his creation. True Islamic teachings and prophetic tradition teach not to retaliate but to practice patience, at all times, at all places, even under provocation. The Quran says, “Practice patience (constancy and self restraint), and practice acts of kindness and compassion.” (Quran Sura Al- Balad 90:17) These are the true Islamic teachings.

Rabbi Eli Goodman

Chabad of the Beaches, Long Beach

Religious hatred or intolerance is when a group specifically refuses to tolerate practices, persons or beliefs on religious grounds. There are many who feel that the world would be better off without religion due to religious hatred, but rejecting religion because you believe in peace doesn’t make sense. War comes naturally to people. It existed long before any religion. Peace is not natural to the human condition. It had to be taught and learned. And it was a religious idea. The first and most powerful vision of world peace was presented to humankind by the prophets of ancient Israel. They predicted a time when “one nation will not lift a sword against another nation, and they will no longer learn to wage war.” (Isaiah 2:4)

The Jewish religion introduced a radical new concept: that war is ultimately undesirable, and peace is the ideal state for which to strive. True, religion has been used by some as a pretext for war. But this does not invalidate all religion.

Recently I took a group of teens to an Islanders game and a small brawl developed among some of the hockey players. Ridding the world of all religion would not end war any more than abolishing ice hockey would end all brawls. Without religion or ice hockey we would find other things to fight about, like Black Friday deals and politics. But without religion, world peace would not have entered the human vocabulary.

As Americans, we are free to believe and practice our religion in the safety of our homes and places of prayer. Our country grants the freedom of religion to all equally. Remember, our strength is in the very fact that we are a great melting pot, making places for others with tolerance and respect.

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