When I came to Saudi Arabia last year, I didn't really know what to expect. I knew that not everybody rode around on camels, and I also knew that not everybody lived in a Palace and had a fleet of yachts at their disposal, or an Oil derrick in their front yard. These things however did comprise most of the images I had seen. I have studied history, read books, read many newspapers both in print and online, and try and stay very informed about the world I live in. Despite all of that, and despite the fact that my father had been here before me, I didn't really know what to think about Saudi itself. I found something that was completely different from anything I had expected.
Maybe more important than what I discovered about Saudi was what I discovered about Muslims.
About all I remembered from the comparative religion class I took in school was that Christians went to churches, Jews went to temples, and Muslims went to Mosques. If I dig a little deeper into my memory, I remember that Budda is a big guy, and that for some reason the imagery of cows and elephants come to me when I think of Hindu's. Seems stupid right? Well a man can't know everything about everything and I had just never worried about it. It stayed that way until a morning in September, 2001.
Suddenly, I had to start thinking about it, suddenly I was inundated with images of what "Muslims" looked like, what they believed and where they were from. Suddenly it was "us" versus "them". Wait a minute? I hadn't been to church in years...
Now, I'm a patriot in the truest sense of the word. I have served my country and always will, I will love her and help her always. If the men and women elected to lead her become corrupt, it is my solemn duty as a citizen to try and replace them through the legal means provided in the Constitution and the bill of rights. If I have a question about something, I have the right and the responsibility to ask it...And I had better damn well have the guts to live up to that responsibility or I should just turn in my passport now.
Wars are wars, I won't discuss those, their possible merits or their possible lack of merits here. But why do I get a feeling of us versus them? Who is "us"? Who is "them"? The West vs the East? No Saudi's an ally...So is India...we've been involved with and supported Eastern Nations for years...Christians vs. Muslims??? Didn't that fight already get waged long before we set sail for the new world?
"Us" vs "Them" is supposed to apply to the peaceful peoples of the world vs those who seek to use violence as a weapon to influence others for religious, political or ideological reasons. Did everybody get that memo? I don't know that they did.
Colonists founded America as a Christian colony of the British crown, But in 1776 while a majority of the population could be considered Protestant Christian, the signers of the Declaration of Independence bound the 13 colonies together in a new way. The Constitution of the United States adopted 12 or so years later while acknowledging a "Creator" does not specifically name such a Creator. Practice and law over the centuries between then and now clearly establish a separation of church and state. (There is a reason for that that the history guys ought to know...). What America was and has proudly become is the land of freedom and that includes religious freedom.
So why all the backlash from the Egyptian elections? Why all the facebook petitions and email warnings and screaming from the rooftops about how the Muslim brotherhood will take over the world if we let them? Why all the churches and temples holding prayer sessions for Israel? Why every time I mention something cool that I saw or learned here does somebody say "you're not converting are you!?" Why do I suddenly feel the need to respond "NO, NO! Nothing like that!" I shouldn't feel that way at all, I come from the land of religious freedom, I can be any religion I please including none and it matters not one bit on my status as first and foremost an American Citizen. Its one of the very core things that gives us our strength as a nation.