Letter: Those with different opinions aren’t the enemy

Recently it has been reported that Hussam Ayloush of the Los Angeles chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations was quoted a saying that American foreign policy is to blame for Muslim extremism and, in particular, for inciting the recent attack in San Bernardino, California, which resulted in the death of 14 innocent American citizens.

Presumably, Mr. Ayloush takes the view that indiscriminate murder of fellow Americans is an understandable response to foreign policy disagreements by Muslim adults, and we (all Americans) are at least partially to blame.

Well, at least this American believes that Mr. Ayloush, and the political organization he represents, is foolish to even suggest that in a democratic society the way to change foreign policy is to kill your fellow citizens.

If Muslim-Americans disagree with our foreign policy, then they ought to be encouraged by their civic leaders like Mr. Ayloush to participate fully in the American political process. It is time we stop thinking that those with different opinions are the enemy.

In a pluralistic society, all political viewpoints should be welcomed, considered and accepted or rejected on their merits. Reasonable people can disagree. Taking the Lord’s name in vain or failing to properly regard the Prophet Mohammed is rude, and may anger some, as would the hate speech of neo-Nazis or the Klu Klux Klan.

In America, we don’t respond to offensive speech with violence. We respect the rights of others who have offensive opinions, and we defend their right to publicly express those opinions. We do not incite, excuse or rationalize the violent act of others to alter public policy. And we certainly don’t suggest that meaningless killing and terrorism are ever justified behaviors. To do otherwise is to speak in a way that is criminal, which is to incite others to immediate violence.

And to those Muslims who wish to incite violence in America, either as citizens, guests or in foreign lands, those individuals are indeed our enemies and must be vanquished.

Chuck Cohen,