Over the Hill

Islam does have a place in a free Western world

“Islam has no place in free Western World.”

That was the message somebody posted on a temporary “Free Speech Wall” at Cal Poly. It was reported in the Nov. 13 Tribune. I assume that message was a reaction to the recent rise of the Middle Eastern terrorist organization called ISIS.

But that kind of message won’t trouble ISIS a bit. In fact, it could help ISIS recruit new terrorists. It might lead some impressionable, discontented, young Muslims to feel rejected by the free Western World. They might decide to join ISIS.

I personally know that rootless young men can be susceptible to such impulses. When I was 18, I read two books about the French Foreign Legion and then enlisted in the Marines. I was crushed when they rejected me. They said the leg I broke at age 5 was deformed. But when I was drafted during the Korean War, the Army doctors seemed to be satisfied as long as I had two legs.

So, I’m sure that ISIS would love to have most of the young Muslims on Earth believe that the entire “free Western world,” hates and despises them and is trying to subjugate them. That would help ISIS recruit new fighters.

I also have a second answer to the claim that “Islam has no place in the free Western World.” This second answer is: The United States of America is part of the free world, and our Constitution says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

That’s the message we want to send out from America: “We tolerate all peace-loving people; live and let live.”

ISIS is the exact opposite of tolerance. Its attitude belongs in the Dark Ages. You certainly can disagree with Islam, if you want to, or with Christianity, or Judaism, or Buddhism, or whatever religion. But you can’t ban any of them in the United States. They are protected by our Constitution.

And our Constitution also gives you the right to continue saying, “Islam has no place in the free Western World.” That’s because the Constitution says there can be no laws against “freedom of speech, or of the press.” I, however, also have the right to say that you’re making an emotional, uninformed mistake.

Yes, you are right to fear ISIS, and we all should oppose ISIS. But most members of Islam aren’t also members of ISIS. It’s not fair to condemn all Muslims because of the murderous sins of ISIS. It isn’t fair to lump all Muslims with the ISIS terrorists, and it isn’t smart. It appears as if many people’s thinking on this matter has been clouded by their fear of ISIS.

Phil Dirkx’s column is special to The Tribune. He has lived in Paso Robles for more than five decades, and his column appears here every week. Reach Dirkx at 238-2372 or phild2008@sbcglobal.net.