UPDATE, December 20, 2015: Vélez has been suspended indefinitely for her tweets.
UPDATE, December 19, 2015: The Twitter account for @MissAmerica_PR is no longer active on Twitter. A few screen grabs from the deleted profile are still available.
On Wednesday Michael Moore posted a photo on Facebook of him standing in front of Trump Tower in New York City holding a sign which read “WE ARE ALL MUSLIM.” The Oscar-winning documentarian and leftist provocateur was expressing solidarity with the world’s 1.5 billion followers of Islam, specifically the 1.3 billion who don’t live in the United States and would be barred from entering the country should Donald Trump’s recent suggestion be put into effect. Trump’s modest proposal comes on the heels of Daesh-inspired attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, the latter being the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil since September 11, 2001. A ban on all Muslims traveling to the United States would be typical of this country. Whenever the United States is attacked, most of its citizens want to find out which identity group the attacker(s) belonged to — black? Puerto Rican? Muslim? Japanese? — and declare war against everyone in that group. The results have been racist laws, massacres, needless wars, and internment, yet the United States fails to learn from this history.
One person seems to have taken especial offense to Moore’s latest antic. Destiny Vélez, who was crowned Miss Puerto Rico this year and is slated to represent the island colony in next year’s Miss America pageant, took to her Twitter account on Thursday to express how offended she was to see someone stand with a group of people she deems dangerous, anti-American, and completely unlike other religious groups.
Then this supposed embodiment of all that is good and decent in Puerto Rico began responding to tweets which attempted to gently guide her toward the facts:
There’s more, but these are the most hateful, least informed bits. There was also a tweet saying “If we are all the same then Muslims need to take off their napkins off of their heads cuz I feel offended by it,” but apparently it has since been deleted — probably the smartest move she’s made in the last 24 hours. She also declared herself a Trump supporter, tweeting the bombastic Republican frontrunner: “I’m leaning to definitely vote for u! It’s time to clean up.”
I almost feel bad for Miss Puerto Rico. Her views toward Muslims clearly come from a complete misunderstanding of, not only Islam, but Christianity as well.
Islam, Christianity and Judaism are known as the Abrahamic religions, of course, and for good reason: each has as its main deity the same sky-god, and each traces its roots back to the mythical Abraham. Islam considers itself the final revelation in the Abrahamic tradition, just as Christianity considers itself the final revelation. Muslims know Christians and Jews as the “People of the Book” — meaning the Bible and the Torah, respectively — with whom they share numerous myths, prophets and laws in common. Both Christians and Muslims, for instance, believe Jesus of Nazareth was born of a virgin birth, though Muslims don’t believe he was the son of God and God in the flesh, as Christians do. Jesus, whose name is mentioned in the Qur’an more times than Muhammad’s, is considered to be a Muslim in the Islamic faith, and Muslims are taught to expect the Second Coming of Jesus before the Last Judgement. For its part, Judaism shares many of the Islamic dietary laws, as well as many of the same codes of conduct between the sexes. In general, the Qur’an builds off (plagiarizes) the Bible as much as the Bible does the Torah.
To say “there’s NO comparison between Jews, Christians & Muslims” is to not know what you’re talking about.
Still, Miss Puerto Rico is right on one thing: she isn’t Islamophobic. Since Islam isn’t a race or ethnic group, simply a belief system — there are Muslims of all kinds, from Andalucía to Indonesia, from Albania to Somalia — you can no more be “racist” against Muslims than you can be against Christians. If anything, Miss Puerto Rico is Arabophic, since she seems to equate Muslims with the people she finds running gas stations — who could be Muslim, Sikh or Hindu, but tend to look Arab to most Western eyes. And in many parts of the world — like Spain, the Balkans or Palestine — it’s hard to tell the difference between Jew, Christian and Muslim on the surface alone.
Miss Vélez claims the Jews and Christians don’t “have terrorizing agendas,” which leads me to believe someone hasn’t read of the Israelites exodus from Egypt, when Moses’s sky-boss gave him and his people a license to kill anyone who tried to stop them from establishing a new home in the desert: “Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves” (Numbers 31:17-18). Nor has she read the gospels, in which Jesus makes clear his intentions: “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). Call me naive, but such commandments for violence sound as though they might have come from the god prayed to by Muhammad: “And kill them wherever you find them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out. … And fight them until there is no more Fitnah [disloyalty to Allah] and worship is for Allah alone” (Qur’an [2:191-193]).
Miss Puerto Rico isn’t the only person to get her facts wrong on Islam. Earlier this week a tenured professor at Wheaton College (about a half-hour drive from my home) was placed on administrative leave after she also posted something on Facebook in solidarity with Muslims, though hers made the awkward — and correct — claim that Islam and Christianity were sister religions.
I’m not one to defend any religion whatsoever, and I had my own issues with Moore’s sign — I am not a Muslim, nor a believer of any kind — but the U.S. Constitution guarantees each of its citizens the right to practice any religion he or she chooses, or none at all. In fact, the freedom of conscious is so essential in a democracy, it’s listed first in the Bill of Rights. Of course, U.S. laws don’t extend beyond U.S. borders, but it would be strange to think that something that’s a natural right for a U.S. citizen isn’t a natural right for anyone else. People are the same everywhere, and are therefore entitled to equal rights. The U.S. government cannot restrict someone’s rights simply because he’s a Muslim. To do that would be, by definition, un-American.
As for Miss Puerto Rico, might I remind her that she doesn’t only represent the Christians and Jews of the island colony, but its Muslim community as well. And there are many different types of Muslim — just as there are varying types of Miss Puerto Rico, apparently. Plus a movement toward solidarity between the peoples of Puerto Rico and Palestine has been growing for some time.
She should consider that the next time she decides to start tweeting like Trump.
Hector Luis Alamo is a Chicago-based writer and the deputy editor at Latino Rebels. You can connect with him @HectorLuisAlamo.