Monday, June 8, 2015

Muslim Chaplain Tahera Ahmad & Christian Marine Monifa Sterling; Victims of Religious Intolerance & Racial Discrimination? A Perspectival Observation

            Recently, the social media's been buzzing about Tahera Ahmad, the discriminated Muslim Chaplain. The flight attendant refused Tahera an unopened can of soda while flying United Airlines, whereas her neighbor was offered an unopened can of beer. When Tahera protested, she was verbally abused by another passenger. [1]

            Being a prominent figure of inter-faith dialogue, Tahera rode the social media bandwagon to drum up support as well as hatred.

            Then there’s Monifa Sterling’s predicament.

            Monifa’s a US marine and a professing Christian. She was court-martialed for refusing to remove the Bible verse - “No weapon formed against you shall prosper” (Isaiah 54:17) - she had posted in three different places in her workspace. [3]

            Monifa was convicted with a bad conduct charge, demoted in rank, and discharged from the Marine Corps. Since then she has been unemployed and will be ineligible to receive government funds and benefits as a veteran.

            Monifa Sterling did not ride the social media bandwagon to mobilize support in her favor. But Liberty Institute [4], the largest legal organization dedicated to defend and restore religious liberty in America, is serving as her legal counsel and striving to restore justice and to protect her.

            Let us examine these discriminations from a few perspectives:

            First - the perspective of location.

            On one hand, we have Tahera, possibly discriminated for being a Muslim and on the other hand, we have Monifa, certainly discriminated for being a Christian. These discriminations happened in America that was founded on Judeo-Christian values, which appeals to loving the neighbor and blessing the enemy.  

            Intriguingly, America is considered a top racist country.[5] If America, which brands itself as the most tolerant and progressively postmodern (absolute truth being relegated to favor relative truth), is the location of racial discriminations and religious persecutions, then there need not be any safe zone in this world - immune to religious persecution and racial discrimination.

            It doesn’t matter where you are, you could be persecuted for your faith as long as you profess your faith in no uncertain terms. Of course, those that are ashamed to proclaim Christ in public will have a nontoxic life amidst vultures circling to devour the devout.

            Second, let’s observe this from the perspective of the persecutors.

            The flight attendant probably had a negative image of Islam and hence went ballistic on a Muslim chaplain. The staff sergeant, who possibly had an unholy aversion to Christianity, persecuted a devout Christian.

            It just takes one person consumed by certain hatred to unleash evil upon humanity. In other words, the source of evil a.k.a Satan merely contaminates the weaker human open to destructive indoctrinations to transform them into potential disaster breeding force.

            The stronger force of evil, thereby, consumes the minions of potentially weaker servile subordinates to subtly yet intensely destroy life. So beware of that one vengeful human in your domain baying for your blood, especially if you profess your faith.

            Third - the perspective of gender.

            The instances of Tahera and Monica were of women persecuting fellow women. So we should no longer think of women as immune to persecute or discriminate.

            Women are as culpable as men for any rogue action or sin on the face of this earth. Sin does not discriminate between genders.

    Fourth, were Monifa and Tahera victims of racial prejudice?

            Monifa’s persecution need not be construed as an instance of racial discrimination.

            Apparently, Mikey Weinstein, one of the 50 most influential Jews in America and one of the 100 most influential people in U.S. Defense [6], carries out a secular humanist agenda in the U.S defense. Evidently, Mikey advocates for punishment against Christians in the U.S military for professing their faith. [7]

            Recently, Army Chaplain CPT Joseph Lawhorn was [wrongly] disciplined for offering spiritual guidance to a soldier in need.[8] If an army chaplain, who is the face of his religion, is persecuted for carrying out his role, then what is to become of Monifa?

            However, Tahera’s persecution, since she is Indian born, [9] could be a conflation of racial discrimination and religious intolerance.

            Tahera was wearing a hijab in the aircraft.  Moreover, the flight attendant used the term ‘weapon’ to justify her refusal to offer an unopened can of soda. Thus we could reason out that this was more an instance of religious intolerance than racial discrimination.

            So it seems that religious intolerance is more in vogue than racial discrimination, especially within this context.

            Finally, let’s observe this from the perspective of response during persecution.

            Monifa’s courage to take on the mighty U.S defense is to be applauded. But having lost almost everything (pertaining to her vocation), were there any other legitimate options for her to pursue?

            She may as well protect her first amendment rights to religious expression as well as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) to defend her posting of the verses as a form of religious exercise.

            Although Tahera’s response may have been cognitively and circumstantially pertinent, there could have been a different response.

            Importantly, irrespective of the strength or weakness of the reason of conflict – an unopened can of soda – there could have been more thought applied to the damage that the publicity may have caused.

            The pro-Islamic and the Islamophobic entities are, in no uncertain terms, firmly present and extraordinarily unyielding in their ideologies. This is a serious divide.

            Our endeavor is not to widen this divide. On the contrary, Tahera’s publicity would have solidified and widened this divide. This is the bitter truth.

            Tahera’s profile as the Director of Interfaith engagement would be to construct a peaceful rapport between any two or more polarized theological divides. Hence she could have ideally refrained from any activity that could possibly, even remotely, disrupt this peace. 

            Therefore for the sake of peace, she need not have publicized this matter. As a Director of Interfaith engagement, she could have swallowed the bitter pill of public humiliation and could have focused on the bigger picture of constructing a peaceful rapport between Islam and the other world religions.






[3] Ibid.









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