Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

MLK Day Debate about Bigotry

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

MLK Day Debate about Bigotry

Article excerpt

COMMENTARY

It is often wise to avoid discussions of politics and religion with relatives who have a clashing viewpoint, and, on a holiday weekend, to cite the spirit of that holiday as reason for your tactful restraint.

But what about when the holiday is based on the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s fight against bigotry, and the topic threatening to blossom into debate is Donald Trump's call for discrimination against Muslims?

OK, maybe it is still more congenial to just shut up. But the spirit of this one holiday, at least, surely offers me some support for taking the bait. Right?

That's my excuse, anyway. And I, and the young person I disagreed with, did stick to MLK's spirit of nonviolence during our informal, backyard patio discussion, which I think stayed reasonably calm.

The viewpoint I disagreed with was that, unlike race, being Muslim is a choice to follow bad teachings that call for repression and violence against non-Muslims, a choice that causes way too many Muslims to become, support or at least excuse terrorists. Therefore, it is only sensible for a presidential candidate to propose a ban on Muslim immigrants as a reasonable precaution when we have a perfect right as a nation to make such a judgment.

This was being argued by a smart, young person who is hard to peg politically. Though libertarian in many ways, he can be a sharp critic of people

who don't share his views. And he says the same about me, though I, of course, am actually easygoing and open to hearing all viewpoints and anyone who says otherwise is a ...

Well, anyway, we both like to argue.

I insisted that calls for discrimination based on religion are ugly bigotry based on willingness to think the worst about an entire group based on trumped-up generalizations, and that this is destructive and just like the bigotry long aimed at every other immigrant group and their religions and cultural backgrounds.

You can't say you support freedom of religion as guaranteed by the U.S. Bill of Rights and at the same time claim the government can lawfully exclude people because they are Muslim, I said.

He argued it is dangerous to admit large groups of immigrants bound by their religion to disrespect the freedom to choose or change religion, or who think expressing forbidden, heretical beliefs is worthy of a death sentence. …

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