Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Refractals: anti-Muslim sentiment, Serbian-Bosnian tensions, Israeli-Palestinian conflict & Biblical Imaginary

Early experiences shape views | The Tennessean |


George Erdel learned to distrust Muslims sitting on his grandfather's knee.

An Orthodox Christian immigrant from Serbia, Erdel's grandfather told him stories about the Ottoman Turks — his bitter enemies growing up.

"I was a little bitty guy, 6 or 7 years old," said Erdel, now 58.

Sara Mitchell, 43, first learned religious tolerance from her parents' Catholic faith and from her Methodist and Jewish neighbors in Kansas City. Her parents said the Christian thing to do was to treat all the people the same way.

"I remember learning the Golden Rule," she said.

Erdel, a self-described "conservative Democrat" who lost the August congressional primary, says Muslims change communities for the worse. But Mitchell says that, in America, every faith is welcome.

Erdel and Mitchell's views are based on their personal experiences and beliefs, and, like other Middle Tennesseans, shape their actions toward Muslims today.

Erdel has been an outspoken critic of the new Islamic Center of Murfreesboro since it was approved in May — it would draw more Muslims, he says. He spoke out at a June 17 Rutherford County Commission meeting that attracted hundreds of residents angry about the mosque.

"We've got people here who remember Sept. 11, 2001. These people are scared," he told county commissioners. "I'm afraid we'll have a training facility."

A retired Federal Aviation Administration inspector who also retired from the Naval Reserve in 2004, Erdel repeated those concerns in an interview at his Murfreesboro home.

Sitting on his back porch swing, Erdel said his concerns about Islam are related to his faith. He believes Muslims are enemies of Israel, and therefore are the enemies of Christians.

He believes the world would be better off if the Israelites had wiped out all other residents of the Middle East back in Old Testament times. In the Old Testament book of Joshua, God commands the Israelites to take over the Promised Land and to kill anyone who gets in their way.