Across the years in the U.S., various minority groups have understood the unwritten rule that to compete against members of the majority, you have to show yourself to be faster, taller, smarter, funnier and put an "-er" at the end of whatever other measure you wish to consider.
Of course it's unfair. And in some ways that injustice is slowly disappearing. But it still exists and various minority groups should understand the reality that the broader society often will judge them unfairly.
That holds true of minority faith communities, too. For instance, by now we've all heard stories of American Muslims who, when they hear about another terrorist attack or similar catastrophe, immediately pray that the perpetrator is not a Muslim. Many American Muslims know that they are being judged as if they somehow are related to or approve of terrorists.
So one of the last things most American Muslims want is to discover that an Islamic charity (such charity is called "zakat") has been breaking laws by funneling money to terrorists or terrorist organizations or countries that fund and support terrorism. They know that if that were to occur it would be seen by many non-Muslim Americans as one more black mark against Islam.
And yet that's exactly what happened a few days ago. As this Associated Press story reported, "A Missouri-based Islamic charity that was shut down after being identified by the federal government as a global terrorist organization admitted in federal court Wednesday that it illegally funneled $1.4 million to Iraq in violation of U.S. sanctions."
You could almost hear the moaning and "oh-no"-ing among American Muslims, who know that such illegal activity by the Islamic American Relief Agency plays right into the false view that all or most Muslims are terrorists or support terrorism.
As the AP reported: "The original indictment alleged the charity sent about $130,000 to help Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, whom the United States has designated as a global terrorist. The money, sent to bank accounts in Peshawar, Pakistan, in 2003 and 2004, was masked as donations to an orphanage located in buildings that Hekmatyar owned.
"Authorities described Hekmatyar as an Afghan mujahedeen leader who has participated in and supported terrorist acts by al-Qaida and the Taliban."
It's certainly true that Muslims aren't the only American religious group in history accused of supporting terrorism here and/or abroad. Many of us recall that Irish Catholic groups in the U.S. were accused a few decades back of helping to finance terrorists acts done by the Irish Republic Army in the so-called "Troubles" of Northern Ireland. Here and here are links to two sites that offer some details about that.
I'm glad our law enforcement authorities and judicial system have shut down the Islamic American Relief Agency, and no doubt most American Muslims are glad of that, too. But there's no doubt that every time something like this happens it makes life more difficult for all Muslims living in this country.
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THE POPE MAY HAVE TO ADMONISH POLAND
Pope Francis heads to Poland soon, and we'll see if he can convince the government there to adopt his welcoming views on immigrants and refugees. The Poles might do well to remember that 500 or so years ago, their leaders purposefully welcomed Jewish immigrants to the country and Jewish life in Poland was vibrant for many years as they also helped create modern Poland. Jews themselves, of course, have been instructed by God from almost the beginning of Judaism to welcome the stranger. It's the right way to live.