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against the world
Monday, 16 August 2010
on cordoba house, aka the "ground zero mosque"

—Having too many Muslims poses a particular threat, because their ways differ substantially from those of the majority culture in the United States: We are utterly justified in controlling and keeping low Muslim immigration in terms of numbers, because of the fact that they, in too great numbers, may undermine our way of life, our living standards, our form of religion— (1)

This seems to be the sentiment with each new wave of immigrants, each new religion that finds a foothold in America. It also isn't that unlike the attitude we had toward Native Americans when we were sticking their children in "residential schools" to indoctrinate them into being "American." As Ronald Niezen describes it in Spirit Wars, outside religions are destined either for extinction or assimilation into American society. The powers of progress and improvement are seen to be such that no primitive religion can survive intact (2). Except, that isn't quite the case if we simply obstruct and protest against each new mosque—not just the one "at ground zero."

And, make no mistake, we are not simply protesting one mosque:


  •          Per the New York Times, 5 September 2006 (3), a mosque in Lewiston, Maine was desecrated.
  •          Per WSMV-TV, 17 June 2010, a proposed mosque in Murfreesboro, Tennessee was protested in such numbers at a public hearing that the authorities couldn't let them all in. (4)
  •          Per the Tennessean, 23 May 2010 (5), a proposed mosque in Brentwood, Tennessee was defeated through organized resistance.
  •         Per the Press Enterprise, 30 July 2010 (6), we protested the building of a mosque in Temecula, California.
  •          Per the Boston Herald, 9 August 2010 (7), we protested outside an existing mosque in Bridgeport, Connecticut.


And that's just a few examples. And, it is worth noting that this isn't only in America; similar protests have taken place recently in London and in Germany, just to name two. This is NOT some isolated protest centered on this one mosque, Cordoba House, in one city. This is NOT about the hurt feelings of the families of those who died in the World Trade Center; that is simply an easy excuse to exploit.

We call Ground Zero "hallowed ground," a "sacred" place. Yet, it remains a pair of empty holes.

Of course, those protesting this community center—just like any local YMCA includes a prayer room, this community center will include a mosque, which allows for the convenience of describing it as such, even though it has been compared (by reporters, and more notably, by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf) in planned structure to the 92nd Street Y—probably don't get the notion of a community center. After all, they couldn't fathom the idea of a "community organizer" a couple years back, and now believe their Community Organizer in Chief to be the AntiChrist, a communist, a Marxist, a socialist, a fascist, a Kenyan and/or Muslim plant intent on destroying America, or all of the above.

But, there I've made the same mistake the Ground Zero Mosque Protestors (though I generally dislike initialisms and acronyms, hereafter referred to as GZMP) make; I've lumped them all together, shoved them all into one neat package of ignorance and hate. This is what they do with Muslims. Nineteen men, and maybe a handful of others who organized them—that is what brought down those planes nine years ago. But, the GZMP lump together all followers of Islam—some 1 and a half billion (roughly 20% of the world's population)—together as evil, violent folk. They cite verses like Sura 8, ayat 12 (that's from the Qur'an, for those who don't recognize the nomenclature), which supposedly includes this order: "instill terror into the hearts of the unbelievers: smite ye above their necks and smite all their finger-tips off them." They take this as a commandment (similar to the Bible's ten in that it should always be followed), to terrorize unbelievers and cut off their heads and fingers. Except they miss that the first line there begins with "I will," as in, it is Allah saying he will instill terror into their hearts, a promise quite similar to those made by the Old Testament God on numerous occasions. And, that second line is specific instruction in fighting a specific battle—this particular Sura is a story about said battle, the Battle of Badr. The Muslim side in the battle is being told to cut off the heads of their enemies—quite useful in making them unable to fight back—or to cut off their fingers—quite useful in that they will be unable to hold their weapons to fight back. As far as primitive battle tactics go, that's workable. But, this verse is cited as if it is the same as Exodus' "thou shalt not kill."

The problem with citing an instruction of a certain time as if it is an ongoing ordinance, though, will bite Christians as much as it bites Muslims. For example, in Numbers 31, as "they warred against the Midianites… the Lord commanded Moses; and they slew all the males… burnt all their cities… and… took all the spoil, and… Moses said unto them… 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.” We remove the context, we pretend this is instruction for all time, and we now have permission to not only kill all males and all non-virgin women among our enemies but also to keep their virgin girls for our bidding. But, this is NOT God's commandment.

They also like to suggest that this mosque will be called Cordoba House in honor of Cordoba Spain, where Muslims had a great victory of Spanish locals. They leave out the coexistence of Christians, Jews and Muslims that followed there.

But, let's move past petty religious squabbles.

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution, among other things, says "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." This has been taken as our having "freedom of religion." We like to pretend we are tolerant of various religions… unless they are not Christian… and even Christians are in danger if they seem too bizarre (e.g. the Branch Davidians). We allow churches to be built. We allow synagogues. We allow gurdwaras, temples, shrines. We even allow mosques—there is a mosque already within a handful of blocks of Ground Zero, for example. We do not generally ask for a popular vote when it comes to what building goes where… there are zoning laws, yes, but they don't usually discriminate so specifically.

An old teacher of mine recently suggested to me that if we all had love as the basis for our decisions, then these Muslims would not build Cordoba House because it would hurt the feelings of so many people. But, if love were the basis of our decisions, then would we be lashing out at an entire religion over the actions of a few? Would we be suspecting every Imam who wants to build a Muslim community center (by the way, at least one of those Tennessee mosques mentioned above was also a YMCA-style community center that would include a prayer room, aka mosque, not a full-blown church-style mosque) as a terrorist sympathizer?

Let's be clear: Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, on 60 Minutes, 30 September 2001, did say that "United States policies were an accessory to the crime that happened" (8). We, of course, take offense at this, nevermind Osama bin Laden's own explanation for the attack, as retribution for our presence—in the form of a military base—in the Holy Land. Our policy of putting out military installations permanently in other countries DID lead to what happened, 11 September 2001. The cause and effect are hardly questionable. The appropriateness of the response, however—that's open to debate. Rauf's use of the term "accessory"—that's also open to debate. But, let's add some context. What Rauf said—the whole sentence as opposed to that bit I just quoted and that is often quoted to paint him negatively—was, "I wouldn't say that the United States deserved what happened, but United States policies were an accessory to the crime that happened," and "it is a reaction against the US government politically, where we [the United States] espouse principles of democracy and human rights, and where we [the United States] ally ourselves with oppressive regimes in many of these countries." What he also said, earlier in that same program was that "fanaticism and terrorism have no place in Islam" and "there are always people who will do peculiar things, and think that they are doing things in the name of their religion. But… God says in the Koran that they think that they are doing right, but they are doing wrong."


The blame for the attack on 11 September 2001 is on those who committed that act, those who organized those men. But, that does not negate their reasons. It does not remove their complaints. The men and women killed that day were likely all quite innocent in regards to the situation that led to their deaths. But, our country is not so innocent. And, unfortunately, we do not like to hear otherwise. If one doesn't proclaim loudly that America is the greatest nation there ever was or will be, then one is suspect... I am suspect.

And, I will be attacked for saying what I just did. So be it. It is the American way. We have our free speech, to be divisive, to speak out against the establishment or against popular opinion. But we also have our free speech to put down those who exercise it thusly.

Moving on, as New York City Mayor Bloomberg said, "let us not forget that Muslims were among those murdered on 9/11 and that our Muslim neighbors grieved with us as New Yorkers and as Americans." This, per Time Magazine, 7 August 2010. He continued: "we would betray our values and play into our enemies' hands if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else."


A person is not a Muslim OR an American. He can be both. And, as with many another religion, in coming to America, in establishing a foothold here, the religion will grow more liberal (in some of its parts, at least), less rigid in the harsher elements that frighten us so much. What we do not want in a religion we so often find ourselves fearing and/or despising is to isolate it in the Mideast, to antagonize and oppress it. We want to set it free to grow into something we will no longer find so foreign. We do not want Muslims to have new reasons to hate and fear us.

(1) This is a deliberate misquotation of a passage from Buddhists, Hindus and Sikhs in America: A Short History by Gurinder Singh Mann, Paul David Numrich, and Raymond B. Williams. It has been altered to replace "oriental" immigrants with Muslims and the verb tense has been changed to the present.

(2) Again, quotation altered for verb tense and to remove the specificity of the indigenous tribes.








Posted by ca4/muaddib at 10:07 AM PDT
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