“It is a testament to the wisdom of our Founders that America remains deeply religious – a nation where the ability of peoples of different faiths to coexist peacefully and with mutual respect for one another stands in stark contrast to the religious conflict that persists elsewhere around the globe.” – President Barack Obama
Nearly two weeks ago, U.S. President Barack Obama gave a clear and concise speech on the fundamental values of this country’s Constitution at a Ramadan celebration. In his address, he offers up that it is under the protection and validation of basic American rights to build an Islamic cultural center within walking distance to one of our nation’s most revered sites, 9/11’s Ground Zero.
Call it what you will – the Cordoba House, Park 51, Ground Zero Mosque, “terrorist recruitment center” – the planned site (currently an abandoned and damaged former Burlington Coat Factory) has sparked controversy that has ignited waves of hysteria amongst those that would allow Right-wing propaganda to scare and dictate their religious, political and moral belief systems.
I do not think you can find one person who would say that to build this center at the proposed location is a smart move – it has obviously proven otherwise. I agree that the builders should have stopped for a moment and examined the repercussions of deciding to build there – as does President Obama, as he suggested by not commenting on the “wisdom” behind the center’s plans.
However, I believe their motive is to show that they want to build peace and understanding and show support for a nation still healing. To block its inception would be the most anti-American thing we could possibly do.
Brief history of backtracking
Step back a moment to a December 2009 New York Times article when the planned “mosque” was first made public. After printing, there was virtually no reaction to the center’s plans – at least until Fox News pundit Laura Ingraham, filling in on “The O’Reilly Factor,” interviewed Daisy Khan, the wife of the project’s organizer, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf.
Rauf, you may recall, had previously been commissioned on several speaking engagements by both Bush and Obama State Departments to promote tolerance in Arab and Muslim nations.
In the interview with his wife, Ingraham seemed to approve of the “mosque”, stating “I can’t find many people who really have a problem with it. I like what you’re trying to do.”
Apparently, Ingraham had yet to receive the Fox memo to demonize an entire religion – the 2nd largest in the world – for the actions of a select few radicals.
Fast forward to the following Spring, and anti-Islam Right-wing bloggers along with the Fox News pundit crowd are descending upon the “radical Islamic ground zero mosque” in an obvious lashing out at an election year target; reviving their ridiculous tirade of anti-Obama, secret Muslim radical America-hater bullshit.
Having it both ways
During G.W. Bush’s 2-year fiasco…excuse me, “term” as President, the fearless leader himself actually praised Islam – post 9/11 – calling it a “religion of peace.” His advisers knew enough to fill him on the fact that our national security demanded at least the facade of a nation secure enough to adhere to its values of religious tolerance and understanding. Any deviation from this display, and we give radicals that much more ammunition against us.
We are a FREE nation, never lose site of that fact. Unlike the majority of those that have Islam as their main faith, this country was founded under the very premise of freedom of religion and protection under the government to practice that religion.
These other nations are, unfortunately, in many ways living in the stone age and are often ruled with an iron, extremist first. A person can get beheaded just for being the “wrong” religion on that side of the world. Of course they would not allow a church, or synagogue, or whatever else. They kill other religions, but we do not (or should not). We are supposed to be better than them.
We cannot pick and choose when we are the “land of the free” – freedom of religion is the bedrock that the country was founded upon. This is an opportunity for the US to demonstrate its superiority over other nations that do NOT allow freedom of religion in their borders.
The U.S. should embrace the opportunity to set the standard for tolerance in America and around the world.
But the Right-wing refuses to acknowledge this, championing the ridiculous calls to arms reverberated by the likes of absolute idiots like Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh. They needed ammo, plain and simple, before an election cycle.
Had Obama come out and condemned the building of the center, the Beck/Limbaugh/Palin/Gingrich/Teabagger crowd would have slaughtered him over not upholding the Constitutional protection of religion. It’s all a game to these people.
And the best part is that they went from claiming that the problem stemmed from the center’s proposed location to the fact that there is a proposed Islamic center at all – with utter buffoons like Dick Morris hilariously lamenting that the center will be “a terrorist recruitment, indoctrination and training center”, regardless of where in NYC it is finally built.
In other words: no new Islamic centers. Anywhere.
There is no oil buried beneath Ground Zero
Countries of Islamic rule are evidence of how fanatical groups are abusing the power of religion to control and subdue populations. Think Al Qaeda and Hussein and Ahmadinejad.
We as Americans are misdirecting our anger in a perverse way. Yes, be mad at THEM – the extremists and dictators and those weak enough to empower them, NOT peaceful Muslim Americans that are just trying to make a life for themselves as generations of every religion in this country did before them.
But, back to Bush.
Siding with the “softer side” of Islam did other things for Bush’s agenda. Politically, it gave him a free pass to turn on his heels from the original WMD justification of war with Iraq and publicly tout it as “Operation Iraqi Freedom” – a noble effort to free those poor, innocent Muslim masses living under the tyrannical Saddam Hussein.
Our brave soldiers put themselves in harm’s way to fight the tyranny that some are suggesting we invoke over here, even if for some unknown, “temporary” time table (when would it be considered no longer a sensitive issue?)
Why is it OK to care so much about their freedom and well-being over THERE – send young American men and women with families and loved ones praying for their survival back in the States – to help “free Muslims” over THERE, yet over HERE we shun them?
The same people screaming about the mosque have no problem sending American kids to war to help “liberate” the same people they supposedly hate. Unless, of course, those people are hiding oil under the sand.
Stop hiding behind religion
Scores of innocent Muslim Americans either died, were hurt or affected on 9/11.
If a Muslim community center cannot be built near Ground Zero in respect for those killed on 9/11 by terrorists who just so happened to be Muslim and were “following” a distorted, radical interpretation of Islamic “law”, then in respect for those thousands of Native Americans killed in the state of New York alone, by settlers who just so happened to be Christian and were too following their calling by their God to embark on manifest destiny, NO Church should ever be built anywhere in the state. Or the country for that matter.
Religious cultures other than Islam have done HORRENDOUS things throughout history, as any scholar would agree; even as recent as the past few decades. Our nation in particular has quite a few “sore spots” in its history, with 9/11 being only one.
Under this idea, we should not allow any religiously endorsed buildings of ANY kind anywhere in the country. Should we ban churches from Oklahoma City, since Timothy McVeigh was a Christian? How about from Waco, Texas?
The American White supremacy movement, as well as its Nazi Germany-based predecessor, was founded in Christian fundamentalism.
Why are Christian churches allowed in Germany and Poland? Ask a Sioux Indian why there is a cross marking the Wounded Knee massacre. Is it because the cross is magically just the “right” symbol, even though innocent Native Americans were slaughtered by the guns and cannons bayonets of American soldiers following a Chrtistian God?
If we are going to call ourselves a country where religion of all kinds are free, than we must accept them as they are in a modern day world and not sanction “bans” of select religions simply because a few crazies of their sect did something terrible.
‘On sacred ground’ open to interpretation
For many people across the country (especially New Yorkers) the Ground Zero site posseses a unique, emotional hold – one that begs to not be turned into a political weapon of fear, hate or contempt.
Ted Olson, Solicitor General Under G.W. Bush And husband of a 9/11 victim, seems to be one American who was obviously directly affected by 9/11 who seems to be talking some sense: “We don’t want to turn an act of hate against us by extremists into a…n act of intolerance for people of religious faith. I don’t think it should be a political issue.”
Yet politics is, unfortunately, the theme of the day. Some of the very champions against the proposed Islamic center are the same Right-wing Congress members that voted AGAINST a bill a few weeks ago to guarantee health costs coverage for 9/11 first responders.
Where were their allegiances then? Why is 9/11 and everything it renders considered sacred on some counts, and not others?
Yet, we have the Fox Propaganda Channel and anyone who will listen spewing hate-mongered garbage via every outlet they can find, using terms like “sacred” and “hallowed ground” in an effort to make the more sensible population sound like monsters, while their loyal brethren turn their back on the survivors of 9/11 and its victims.
Many are arguing over the site’s proximity to Ground Zero. If two blocks is too close, then how about ten blocks? Or twenty blocks? The Bronx, perhaps? When the “Freedom Towers” are finally built (if ever), should we put a sign out front that reads “No Muslims Allowed?” Should we ban Muslims from living in eyesight of the new towers, like say in East Jersey or Brooklyn or Queens? Where do you draw the line for “sacred ground?”
While every planned design for the WTC includes a shopping mall and office spaces, no one seems to be clamoring over whether or not the new Starbucks, Borders, or Gap allows for proper reverence for the 3,000+ people who lost their lives.
No end in sight
Obviously, I am not going to change anyone’s mind here. I am not trying to convert anyone, and we are all entitled to our opinions. And those that agree with me will probably Tweet this or “Like” it on their Facebook profiles, etc.
I write because, basically, I have a lot to say and I am sure posting this amount of ranting on Twitter and/or Facebook would probably annoy most, if not all.
In closing, I offer only this: we cannot pick and choose which pieces of the Constitution we want to uphold. I am not an overly religious person, but I do believe in God – and to understand who or what that “God” is should be perhaps the greatest mystery and achievement mankind can ever grasp. And I believe that peaceable people should be allowed to practice what they want, where they want, to whom they want, in the “land of the free”.
Otherwise, let’s just tear up the Constitution right now.