Next, the rise of Islamic State has taken barbarity and cruelty to new levels in the modern world. The Paris attacks of Nov. 13 have been the extremist group’s greatest onslaught outside Syria and Iraq, and while it has not claimed to have planned the San Bernardino shooting on Dec. 2 that killed 14 people, the perpetrators in that attack publicly pledged allegiance to and inspiration from Islamic State. Of course, the other side of this story is the response of Americans inspired by Donald Trump who now openly support his idea of a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” Trump likes to call his proposal a “temporary” ban, but it would be more accurate to call it an indefinite ban. Temporary suggests a short term with a defined end (e.g., a three- or six-month ban). But Trump says the ban should continue “until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” This indefinite ban has the backing of 59 percent of Republicans, compared with 36 percent of all adults. But even the latter figure is very concerning when one considers the constitutional, moral and religious implications of branding an entire religion as terrorist. A rising tide of hate crimes against Muslim Americans has been reported in the weeks since Trump’s call for an indefinite ban, so he has succeeded not only in alienating Muslims around the world but also in endangering patriotic, peaceful Muslims in our own country. Fortunately, the hateful rhetoric is emanating from primarily political quarters. Both mainline and evangelical Christian and Jewish denominations and organizations immediately condemned the proposed ban and have called for the United States to settle even more Syrian refugees than the 10,000 that the Obama administration has committed to accept. Finally, the tragic mass killing at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church in Charleston, S.C., will remain an indelible scar on the religious landscape of our nation. Dylan Roof, the cold-blooded killer who sat through Bible study before shooting each member of the class — including the pastor — would later say that he chose Bethel A.M.E. Church because he knew it was the heart of the black community. But the dramatic, forgiving response of the families of the victims and the stirring eulogy and song by President Barack Obama moved the entire nation. It also moved the state of South Carolina to remove the Confederate battle flag from the statehouse grounds. The money that Roof used to buy his gun came in the form of birthday gifts from family members, who claimed they’d had no idea he harbored such violent hatred for blacks. Unfortunately, the tragedy was still not enough to move Congress to pass gun laws that might prevent other such catastrophes in the future. Your support matters…

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