“America is not at war with Islam.” Richard L. Eubank

A southerner once told me that American racism in the North was worse than in the South. For him, the covert racism he experienced in certain northern cities was more dangerous and misleading. Not sure I ever really understood the call for a more “upfront” racism as it seemed a scary thing that I could be called a “Nigger” in the open or accosted in a way that reminded me of my place in the world. To me, it seemed the subtlety of the North was preferential to the in-your-face racism of the South. But one needs to only think of some of the many forms of “subtlety” to know they can be some of the loudest types of discrimination, from Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policies to the absence of gay marriage. Of course, there is seldom an outright attack on a group (a la slavery, Holocaust), but these small, some would call “covert” acts create a type of invisibility that works to silence particular groups. It is standard hate practice both here and abroad.

Just recently, Time Magazine published an article, “Are the French Taking Secularism Too Far?” where the author explores the French government’s move to ban the Burqa, the traditional outer garment worn by Islamic women. In the article, Rokhaya Diallo, founder of “an association celebrating the diversity of modern France” works to see that “people from politicians to ordinary citizens recognize secularity as an alibi to express increasingly Islamophobic attitudes.” Basically, France is taking the typical Northern route, a more below the radar racial attack to disguise their real goal of suppressing a rising minority group.

Here in America, our anti-Muslim sentiment vacillates between questioning of Barack Obama’s true religious affiliation to hate crimes against Muslim cab drivers. While it may seem the universal “don’t do that” response to the impending Qur’an burning would point to the United States as a sensitive pro any-religion nation, it is just a political stance to protect our own hides from being affiliated with loud Southern practices of discrimination. For all intents and purposes, we’d prefer to stay in the dark on our deepest, anti-Muslim feelings and the little Floridian pastor who is orchestrating the whole Qur’an burning has threatened to reveal us all as boisterous Muslim-haters. We’d prefer the Northern route on this one. Any other day, we’d be content with cabbie attacks, anti-Mosque near 9/11 site, types or racism. After all, these are reasonable forms of distrust and disregard. Burning the Qur’an is just wrong!

It seems, we are just like France. The U.S. is hardly a secular nation. We need not look to the abundance of Christian and Jewish holidays as evidence, but to our own disinterest in most things Muslim. Just think Pakistan, burqa-banning, and Lower Manhattan. It seems, “secular” is a term only used when we are refuting non-Christian and non-Jewish religious traditions. As my friend, who was either more prone to conflict or just plain honest (your pick) would say, there is only so much passive-aggressive “Northern-ness” one can have until they blow up and the Southerner comes out. Consider us there.