Over 80 dead in Wednesday’s chemical attack in Syria; Russian Air Force and Hezbollah fighters partner with Syrian Government in Aleppo Massacre.” That is a more newsworthy headline that could have been on the front page of the Aug. 10 edition of the Citizen-Times. I could forgive the writers if they were still piecing together the events earlier that day as they unfolded: “2 million civilians without running water in sweltering Syrian summer as fighting rages on.”
The headline that adorned the front page, instead focused on a comment made on social media from one private individual to another is what was chosen to grace the ‘‘above the fold’’ position in the Wednesday edition.
The aforementioned post weighs in on Islamic political identity and what it means to be “a good American”. At the time of writing, Aug. 11, the original post cannot easily be found on Facebook. However, the bigotry on display in newsstands, and in the comment section of the online article, is reaching further than the original post could have ever hoped.
Let me be clear: I believe the Facebook post in question was bigoted, illogical, and not a fair representation of Christian or Islamic faiths. Many Muslim Americans that have put their life on the line serving in the US military to defend the Constitution and our Bill of Rights. To suggest a good Muslim can’t be a good American begs the questions “What is a good Muslim” and “What is a good American?”
The pastor’s post assumes that to be a good American is to support the view that Judeo-Christian values were the foundation of our Constitution. It should be noted that many of our founders were deists, or of no faith at all. Under President John Adams in 1797, the U.S. Senate unanimously ratified the Treaty of Tripoli which declared “The Government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion”.
Ignorance of American history aside, a pastor or member of his congregation holding a personal view on a Facebook account is not front-page news, regardless if said member is a public servant. The resulting article has done little more than create an online microcosm of anti-Muslim and anti-Christian bigotry. While I do not believe it was the intent of the Citizen-Times to stoke the flames of a culture war, I do believe more prudence could be shown in selecting cover stories.
I could understand wanting to raise awareness to the plight of Muslims, as Asheville has been selected as a resettlement location for refugees, and this year’s election cycle has brought out harsh rhetoric against millions of Muslim- Americans and immigrants of other faiths alike. It would seem noble of the paper to want to bring this sort of thing to light. I would encourage the paper, if it is trying to build up sympathy for those in need, to focus on the humanitarian aspect of millions facing death, rather than Facebook comments that are far from out of the ordinary. The end result may be less bigotry, and the start of a real discussion.
Littlefield works in the Jackson County Schools as a substitute teacher. He is a former candidate for the N.C. House.