Open letter occasioned by receipt of yet another forwarded email that sows only suspicion and hate

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Dear email forwarder—

Please don't mistake my opinion on the email as any condemnation of you or your character. But here's what I see as the danger of forwarding emails like that one: The information in them is only vaguely sourced, and the contents may not be accurate. The email has been forwarded a hundred times already, and may have been changed or added to along the way. The people who receive the email may just hit delete, but they may also read it and decide that it's true without doing any thinking or investigating of their own. I think that before you forward an email like that, you have a responsibility to investigate it for yourself and find out whether or not it's accurate. Otherwise you are spreading something that is no better than gossip, and potentially very damaging.

I did some investigation online and discovered that the account by Rick Mathes has been disputed by credible sources that were present at the event in Missouri where he claimed the discussion took place. You can read all about the doubt that has been cast on his account here:

When you forward an email like this, how can you trust that the recipients will investigate the truth of it for themselves when you haven't even taken the trouble to? The most likely outcome is that people will just accept what it says without thinking, because the email tries to sound credible, and most people are fooled by credible-sounding messages that only reinforce their fears. I would encourage you to send the link above to all the people on your list who received the first email and offer them an alternate point of view.

Muslims around the world are no more unified in their beliefs than Christians are. (Think about how differently Catholics, Baptists, Mormons, and Seventh Day Adventists all believe.) Some of the most interesting conversations I've ever had came from sitting down across a table from people with opinions very different from my own, everyone from Anglican ministers to old Egyptian men in Queens to regular joes in Jordan, and talking honestly about our separate beliefs. What I've always come away from those conversations with is a feeling that, however divergent our beliefs, the only way we're all going to get along and stop hating each other is through talking and learning to see that the other person is not all that different from us deep down where it matters.


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This page contains a single entry by William Shunn published on April 19, 2009 10:44 AM.

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