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Letter Was Unnecessarily Harsh

Published: March 15, 2017

To The Editor:

I am writing in response to the March 10 letter to the editor titled “Hypocrisy in Calling for Tolerance,” by Dale N. Walter. I thought it to be unnecessarily harsh towards the Muslim group in Newtown that is setting up a community center. Even though I am a Catholic, albeit nonpracticing, I do believe in a group’s right to freely come together, practice their religion, and ask for tolerance if necessary, without having someone berating them for doing so. The message I garnered from the piece was: that the Newtown group is Muslim, Muslims are potential terrorists, therefore the Newtown Muslims are potential terrorists. Mr Walter seems to assign the crimes committed on 9/11, as well as the intolerance practiced by some Muslims in the Middle East, to this particular group. Why? Because they did not denounce or call for Jihad against the extreme elements of the Muslim religion. I consider these criticisms, as well as calling them hypocrites and cowards, to be unjust and superfluous prerequisites for the granting of basic tolerance. I do not believe that other mainstream religious groups have been called upon to renounce the heinous acts committed by the radical elements of their own particular membership when forming new congregations. I think that for most of us, the aversion to acts of terrorism is mutually understood, and although unspoken, is thought of as a foregone conclusion.

The letter creates a double standard, which in turn leads to divisiveness and promotes the misconception that we need to be wary of Muslims for they are potential terrorists. In my opinion, we need to be wary of anyone with evil in his/her heart, regardless of race or religion. Rather than attack our Muslim neighbors, we should be glad that they are building something positive: a community center that could potentially be a bridge for better understanding, learning, and cooperation for all the people of Newtown.

A month ago, I visited the Newtown Muslim group during one of their gatherings. I had heard that there were threats levied against them, so in solidarity and also in hopes to better understand them, I went. I, among a few other non-Muslims, had the opportunity to listen in on their service, talk to them, break bread, ask questions, observe the interactions of their members, and their children at play. In a short period of time I was able to recognize more similarities between us than differences. I am heartened by the last paragraph of Mr Walter’s letter where he mentions that he would be glad to visit the Mt Pleasant Muslim Community Center, excepting the part where he feels the need to hear from their leaders before doing so. I think he should open up a dialogue in person, pose his questions and perhaps recognize, as I did, that as people, we have a lot in common. I would be happy to tag along.

Alex Villamil
11 Antler Pine Road, Sandy Hook         March 15, 2017

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