I’m a little late to the game here, but the Portland (Maine) Press Herald issued an apology for depicting local Muslims observing Eid on September 10. Apparently, a photograph of peaceable practitioners of Islam engaging in an activity mandated by their faith and protected by the First Amendment is “offensive” and “insensitive” if it occurs anywhere near September 11.
For anyone who is still confused about why this is FUCKED UP, let me offer a parallel. Timothy McVeigh murdered 168 people on April 19, 1995. Timothy McVeigh was raised Catholic. Do Oklahoma newspapers still depict people celebrating Easter when it falls on or near April 19?
Some might argue that the 9/11 bombers were motivated by religion and McVeigh wasn’t (and in fact, McVeigh’s Catholicism seems to have waxed and waned). I think the 1.3 billion Muslims in the world would take issue with the assessment that the 9/11 hijackers shared mainstream Muslim beliefs. This was a perversion of religion, not an exercise of the religion itself.
Let me be perfectly clear. Personally speaking, I am pretty down on religion. I think religion undermines personal conscience and, like any social institution that substitutes its own morals for individuals’ morals, it can compel people to do atrocious things. And while I can’t claim to know for certain, I happen to think it’s also delusional. The best I can say for Islam is that it’s no more bloodthirsty a religion than any other, which is far from a ringing endorsement. (Christianity, after all, has the blood of colonized people the world over — not to mention the innocence of many an altar boy — on its hands.) But most of the Christians, Jews, and Muslims I know are lovely people who consider generosity and good works the proper observance of their religion, even if I disagree with them about many of the particulars.
I love the Bill of Rights. I really, really love it. It’s the heart of a system of government that doesn’t always get it right, but comes damn close a lot of the time — more often than I sometimes give it credit. And I’m proud to live in a country where the number one right (that’s correct, folks, it was #1 for a reason) is the right to speak, assemble, and worship freely. It pains me to know that a few loudmouthed bigots want to restrict the very freedoms our government is legally obligated to protect. These imbeciles aren’t literally attempting to establish a state religion, but when newspapers can be compelled to publish apologies for reporting on the free exercise of religion, we have an environment that favors some religions over others. And that’s not acceptable.
So screw you, Portland Press Herald. You should be ashamed of yourself. You had a chance to stand up for freedom of religion and freedom of the press, and you blew it.