The Legal Examiner Mark The Legal Examiner Mark The Legal Examiner Mark search twitter facebook feed linkedin instagram google-plus avvo phone envelope checkmark mail-reply spinner error close
Skip to main content

Southeastern Lower Michigan (the Metropolitan Detroit area) is home to one of the largest populations of Muslim Arabs in the country. They live, work, go to school, contribute to the economy, contribute to charity, worship, and own businesses in the area; they are engaged in and have become a vital part of the community.

My office is in Southfield, MI. Many of you have read about the former Mayor of Detroit, his problems and the problems of the city, in general. The automobile industry, while headquartered in Michigan, has virtually abandoned the manufacturing base that once flourished here; the industry has downsized and moved its base to other cities and other countries in search of less expensive labor and increased profits. While many people, in search of jobs, have left the city and the state, the Muslim population has increased. Southfield is a northwestern suburb of Detroit; it is a city with significant office space, one of the cities that has benefited from the decline of Detroit as the office “hub” of Michigan.

Across the hall from my office is a medical collections company. We have been office “neighbors” for years. They have a large office with a large staff of collectors; we see each other in the lobby and restaurant, we converse with each other, and we have become friendly. One of my favorite people working in that office is ‘Omar’. Omar is a very nice gentleman, a sharp guy, and fun to talk to. He is a Pakistani Muslim; I consider him my friend.

Recently, a small Christian, evangelical group in Florida announced plans for a national "Burn the Koran Day", on September 11, 2010, the ninth anniversary of the World Trade Center terrorist attacks against the United States. The burning is being done as a protest against violent Islamic extremists. The group is calling the day “International Burn a Koran Day”. The lawyer in me says that they have the right to do this under the 1st Amendment of the Constitution. Like flag burning, this activity would fall under the protections that guarantee freedom of speech.

One of my favorite political movies is “The American President”, with Michael Douglas (God bless you, Michael, I wish you the best in you battle against Cancer) as President Andrew Shepherd. I love ‘President Shepherd’s’ take take on the 1st Amendment. Here’s what he had to say:

“America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You’ve gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say, "You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours." You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country cannot just be a flag. The symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Now show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then you can stand up and sing about the land of the free.”

So, I agree with the mythical Andrew Shepherd; “burn a Koran day” is constitutionally protected. However, so is the building of a Mosque a few blocks from Ground Zero; many politicians argue that it may be constitutionally protected, but is it the appropriate thing to do? Is it insensitive? Can’t the same be said for “burn a Koran day"? Is it appropriate? Is it insensitive? Might it not have an incendiary effect? Is it American? Why isn’t a person who claims to be a Christian Reverend sending a message of peace, rather than hate? Wasn’t Jesus the “Prince of Peace”? The last time history recorded this type of activity is when the Nazis burned Hebrew prayer books during World War II. It has a slippery slope, this path that this Christian group plans to go down.

While religious leaders of all major faiths have denounced this proposed event, it is troubling, nonetheless; more and more Americans seem to have reached the conclusion that “all Muslims are terrorists or, at least, terrorist sympathizers”. Do too many Americans silently support this ‘day’? Well, I, for one, do not; this is America. In America, the land of the free, our constitution guarantees freedom of religion and assembly. Muslims, like Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and Jews have a right to religious freedom; they, like all Americans, have the right to worship, peacefully, without fear of persecution. This “burn a Koran day” sends a very un-American message.

Let’s go back to my office building and my friend Omar. I saw him in the hall, today and I asked him how he felt about “burn a Koran day”. He said it makes him sad and somewhat angry; but worse, he told me that his young children are afraid. They are afraid to go out of the house; they are afraid to go to school. They believe that other children in school hate them and are going to beat them up. Omar came to this country from Pakistan in search of a better life. He repudiates terrorism in the name of his religion and he hates those who have bastardized his faith. He is shocked and saddened that his family and his children, in America, fear for their safety.

Omar is Muslim; I am Jewish. We are friends. He is a great guy; I don’t hate him just because he happens to be Muslim and he doesn’t hate me just because I happen to be Jewish. Can peace between our two religions evolve two people at a time? I’m not that naïve. I have long felt that peaceful Muslims should condemn, at the tops of their voices, the terrorist activities of radical Islam. Peaceful Muslims seem eerily silent, and the non-Muslim world interprets their silence as assent to terror and radical behavior. My friend Omar calls radical Islamic fundamentalists, “crazy” and “dangerous”, but not enough is being said in condemnation by peaceful Muslims in religious and political power. Perhaps they, too, are afraid of the terrorists; perhaps many condone this terrorist behavior. I can’t know what every Muslim is thinking or doing about the situation. What I do know is that two young school children are afraid to go out of their house; they are afraid to go to school. This must be how black children felt, in the 50’s, in the South, when integration was being forced on an angry white society. This must be how Jewish children felt in Nazi Germany. This must be how young Russian children felt during the pogroms. This must be how Bosnian children felt when being ‘ethnically cleansed’ by the Serbs. This must be how all persecuted children feel.

But, this is 2010 America, land of the free, home of the brave. We are the country with the Constitution. Have we learned nothing from religious persecution in Nazi Germany, in Russia, in Bosnia and elsewhere? Is burning a Koran any different than burning a cross on the front lawn of a terrified black family? Is it different than burning Hebrew prayer books in Nazi Germany? Turn back America; we are better than this.

Mark Bello has thirty-three years experience as a trial lawyer and twelve years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide legal finance cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life litigation funding is needed by personal injury plaintiff involved in pending litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Business Associate of the Florida, Tennessee, and Colorado Associations for Justice, a member of the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.


  1. Gravatar for David Chura

    Great that some one has the guts to stand up for CHRIST!

    Jesus said if you don't stand up for me. He will Deny YOU!

    You Bovine schizophrenia's (you and your government and leaders of society) have got no brains to realise. Give an inch and take a mile. That's exactly what you are allowing with the those who follow the KORAN! You are letting a fool lead society to destruction!

    Take a look at what is said in the Koran. It teaches violence! Wake up you asses!

    Consider the military in Afghanistan. They are worried about repercussions. REALLY!

    Why are they there in the first place? It's already a religious war they are fighting!

    So where's the beef?

    You have to stop the problem at the routs!

    All you so called advocates who are scared to speak and attack a problem where it lies, Have not read or looked at what is taught in the KORAN! FACT!

    Just for you so called complainers who have no idea what's in the Koran. And want to stop the burning by speaking up.

    Take note of the following!

    Here's the English version of interpretation of just a couple of small but serious passages.

    Qur’an 2:191 “And kill them wherever you find and catch them. Drive them out from where they have turned you out; for Al-Fitnah (polytheism, disbelief, oppression) is worse than slaughter.”

    Qur’an 33:60 “Truly, if the Hypocrites stir up sedition, if the agitators in the City do not desist, We shall urge you to go against them and set you over them. Then they will not be able to stay as your neighbors for any length of time. They shall have a curse on them. Whenever they are found, they shall be seized and slain without mercy—a fierce slaughter—murdered, a horrible murdering.”

  2. Gravatar for asteadyrain

    David Chura -- Here's a link with over 1000 references to cruelty and violence in the Christian Bible:

    You ask if others have read the Qur'an and are familiar with its content. I ask you this -- Are YOU are familiar with YOUR OWN holy book?

  3. Gravatar for James

    My friend Omar does not have nice things to say about violent Islamic extremists; (He probably doesn't have nice things to say about Jews either).

    * Kill the Jews and the Christians if they do not convert to Islam or refuse to pay Jizya tax (9:29)

    * Any religion other than Islam is not acceptable (3:85)

    * The Jews and the Christians are perverts; fight them (9:30)

    Now, don't get me wrong; America and free people all over the world must oppose and condemn acts of terror. We must be vigilent, active, even proactive. Threats against our people and our freedoms must be taken seriously; we must not be passive. If we see, or even sense a threat, we must put it down. (Therefore since the Muslims have vowed to kill anyone who isn't a Muslim, they are the threat we must put down)

    * Slay the unbelievers wherever you find them(2:191)

    * Make war on the infidels living in your neighboorhood (9:123)

    * When opportunity arises, kill the infidels wherever you catch them (9:5)

    * Maim and crucify the infidels if they criticise Islam. (5:33)

    * The infidels are unclean; do not let them into a mosque (9:28)

    * Punish the unbelievers with garments of fire, hooked iron rods, boiling water; melt their skin and bellies


    * Do not hanker for peace with the infidels; behead them when you catch them (47:4)

    * The unbelievers are stupid; urge the Muslims to fight them (8:65)

    * Muslims must not take the infidels as friends (3:28)

    * Terrorise and behead those who believe in scriptures other than the Qur’an (8:12)

    * Muslims must muster all weapons to terrorise the infidels (8:60)

  4. Gravatar for bob

    I suppose the purely christian response to the 911 attacks would have been to send a letter to Osama telling him that its was not nice and please don't do it again.

    What ever happened to an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth?

    I feel that every community should have a public burning of the koran if they wish.

  5. Gravatar for Jerry Engelbach
    Jerry Engelbach

    Asteadyrain is right. There is just as much violence in the Bible as in the Koran.

    Bob celebrates this violence with his "eye for an eye" post. Of course, if Bob really wants to live according to the Old Testament, he must realize that if he is not Jewish he would be considered an infidel by his own Bible.

    Mark is not wrong to castigate Muslim leaders for not speaking out against violence. But in fairness he should equally castigate Christian leaders for not speaking out in Christ's name against the U.S.'s criminal invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

    Religious leaders on both sides are equally guilty.

  6. The American President quote nails the idea down. There is a difference between America and many other countries. It is a very sad thing that is being done in Florida, very unAmerican, and totally against what the country stands for. But, looking at the numbers in that church, seems like it is as much a publicity thing as anything else.

  7. Gravatar for MarkHallenberg

    Mark, your relationship with Omar is good reflection of two men seizing an opportunity to appreciate each other as persons in a similar cultural environment, while respecting and appreciating each others heritage. The same cannot be said for Islamic culture as a whole, today, and any other cultures that wish to get along with it. Regardless of all that is said about what Islam represents, look at what it does. Judging by the actions of Islam today, one is compelled to protect ones self. And having both eyes open, one is compelled to pray for Muslims as well.

  8. Mark: I visited the Vigilante website and you and I are far apart, politically. Just because policies are not "popular" doesn't mean they are wrong. Just because large amounts of people, blinded by hatred, wish to ignore the constitution (until the same sections suit their purposes), doesn't make them right. You paint "Islam" with broad brush strokes. Which race or religion is next? In the 50's south it was the blacks; in Nazi Germany, it was the Jews. Today, it is Muslims, some of whom have earned our hatred and distrust. I agree with your comments on terrorists; we must be vigilant and proactive in the face of terror. However, as I indicated in the post, I just don't agree that "terrorist" and "Muslim" are always synonomous.

    Your party had eight years to seek and destroy (or to attempt to mend fences with) those who would kill our citizens. Instead, led by President Bush, it began a war against a country and a people who were not responsible for 9/11 on a premise that was known to be false; these actions alienated people who,immediately after 9/11, were sympathetic to our cause. I'm not a Sadamm fan and I'm glad he's gone, but he caused us to take our eye off the ball.

    Your party had eight years to create and sustain a robust economy; Mr. Bush left office with the economy in such shambles that the original "bail-out" was deemed necessary by a Republican administration. Because of his policies, our investment and retirement accounts and our homes are worth half of what they once were; many of us are in foreclosure or upside down against our mortgages. This is the legacy of President Bush. President Obama has inherited the 'bill' for President Bush's policies and mistakes; he has kept every promise he campaigned on. Yet, in only two years (remember, Mr.Bush had eight to screw things up), the country seems to be turning on him, despite the fact that he has done an admirable job in an extraordinarily bad situation.

    Republicans do a great job of doing nothing or doing harm, then climbing on their bully pulpit and blaming Democrats. Our citizens have a short memory about the root causes of our current situation. After all, they caused the problems by electing, then re-electing Mr. Bush, in the first (and second) instance. There are no quick fixes. A return to Bush-type policy and rhetoric will only make things worse. People can hate; people can protest; people can complain; people can disagree; people can vote and change our leadership. That is the American way. If, however, they do not give President Obama the time and tools to fix the mess he inherited, we will all be sorry.

    I know you disagree; I visited your website. I respect your right to disagree. This difference in viewpoint, with appropriate civil discourse, is also part of the greatness of America. We can disagree without hatred, can't we? We both support an environment where American children, regardless of their religion, may leave their homes without being in fear for their live, don't we? And that is the tragic story of Omar. A nice guy, an American, with nice children, also American, are victims of bigotry, simply because of their national origin. In this country, whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, that is not acceptable.

Comments are closed.

Of Interest