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OPINION

EDITORIAL: Counter radicalism but embrace Muslim community

York Dispatch
Local Muslims are making sure that the York community knows they do not support recent attacks, including the terrorist attack in CA last week. Sunday, Dec.  6, 2015. (John A. Pavoncello - The York Dispatch)

President Barack Obama Sunday night called radical Islam “a real problem that Muslims must confront without excuse.”

Here in York, the Muslim community is doing just that.

York City reporter Julia Scheib’s Monday story, “York Muslims wary of bigotry after attacks,” recounts how local Muslims understand and accept their responsibility to stay vigilant for signs of radicalization among those who profess their faith.

Kwame McPhaul, who was born and raised in York City and converted to Islam in the late 1990s, is involved with the York City mosque Masjid At-Tawheed. If someone who enters the mosque expresses sympathy with terrorists, he said, members of the mosque immediately notify the police.

“Certain lingo, we pick up on,” McPhaul told The York Dispatch.

We think it is crucial for Americans here and across the nation to understand the stark difference between radicalization leading to crimes of hatred and evil carried out in the name of Islam, and the majority of the Muslim community who contribute to our cities and our country in peaceful, positive ways.

Obama implored Americans not to turn against Muslims at home, reminding us that the Islamic State is driven by a desire to spark a war between the West and Islam.

He also reminded us that many American Muslims have taken up arms to fight for the United States, as servicemen and women.

One of the ways we can ensure that the hateful agenda being advocated by the Islamic State is unsuccessful is to think more clearly and rationally about this issue.

Locally, we must care for one another without becoming divided over matters of varying religious beliefs. We must reject the hateful stereotypes that ultimately make neighbors fear one another, and we must reach out to get to know one another with open minds and hearts.

Through open conversation with our neighbors, particularly those we see as different from ourselves, there comes the ability to forge relationships. Strong relationships are the most powerful antidote to bigotry.

The president is correct. We will prevail because love and acceptance, religious tolerance and the end of blatant and systemic racism, are “on the right side of history.”

We are better than that. We are one nation under god — and we have a right to profess that belief, or not, in any way we choose without fear of retribution.

That’s the America worth defending.