During the years following the September 11, 2001 disaster, a lot of poop was being flung on the subject of whether an Islamic cultural center--planned to contain a mosque--should be allowed to be built near where the World Trade Center once stood. Initially I imagined such a thing was a bad idea, because (well, I still believe this) a bunch of foolish people would no doubt attack it with everything from graffiti to bomb attempts, so unless they really want to invite regular picketing and pay for very good security, they'd be more likely to have a peaceful place for themselves if they did it someplace else.
However, then I decided that's stupid; that if someone doesn't take issue with the jerks who will use scare tactics and harassment to get what they want, they'll keep walking all over us and thinking those tactics work to get them what they want. (Gee, and these people claim to be AGAINST terrorism?) The main problem I have with people's opposition to an Islamic cultural center being built near the disaster site is that Islam does not equal terrorism. I know some people think the terrorists were acting in the name of Islam and therefore anything glorifying or supporting that religion being that close to the disaster site is insulting. I understand their point, but they are wrong.
Islam is not the cause of the September 11th attacks any more than Christianity is the cause of abortion clinic bombings and child dismemberment/molestation. (Anyone want to take a count of how many Catholic churches are within walking distance of schools, playgrounds, and daycares? Should that be considered an insult to what happened to some kids at the hands of BAD representatives of Roman Catholicism?) Those acts were simply those criminals' twisted expressions of their religion--it doesn't suggest that people who practice said religions in moderate ways should be suspected of being possible violent criminals. People using religion to justify violence has always been a corruption of what's supposed to be an inspiring motivation for people. I don't like a lot of what many religions stand for and am not a religious person, but I do know it's not fair to saddle a religion or its practitioners with the blame for what a few of its bad apples do. (But I don't want to get into the whole discussion of what moderate religious practitioners do do to provide cover for extremists right now, since that's not the rant I want to have at the moment.)
I also saw that hysterical people were screaming about OMG THEY'RE GOING TO BUILD A MOSQUE ON GROUND ZERO as if it a) was actually ON THE RUINS or b) Muslim extremists were doing this to claim victory. This is what is known as deliberately biased reporting. They were trying to make it sound very, very insidious.
Guess what? The Islamic cultural center they wanted to build was not even IN SIGHT OF the disaster site. So basically yes, if you walked in a particular direction toward the site, you would pass this cultural center, maybe, depending on your route. (Maybe you'd do that to deliberately offend yourself?) Exactly how far away do you have to go before it's not offensive to practice or study that religion? What this appears to be proving is that the people who are against this are actually against ISLAM, not against terrorists (Muslim or otherwise). Which, despite people's bleating about this being a Christian nation, is an un-American statement. Free exercise of religion (and not prohibiting exercise thereof, guys) is one of the most basic guaranteed American freedoms, and you can put that in your Constitution and smoke it.
And I know a lot of people have made this point already now, but look:
You know what? That's a fair point in some ways. I can see why some people--especially those personally touched by a death in the family as a result of 9/11--have a gut reaction to Islam as a SYMBOL of their loss. The problem is that it's not accurate. The people who lost so much were hurt by TERRORISTS. Muslims are not the same thing as terrorists, and their religious book is not the only one that suggests followers should kill people unlike themselves.
Islam and its culture can't be treated differently in this country if we actually want our country to represent what we say it does. People who think Christianity can operate "in the shadow of Ground Zero" while Islam can't are people who do not understand the breadth of the freedom guaranteed to us by the First Amendment. Islam didn't bomb the World Trade Center. Terrorists did. Fight terrorism (including oppression, like the kind detractors are trying to impose on the Muslims in this country); don't pin the blame on a terrorist's religion or race just so you can have something to fight.
This is kind of mean, but I have to say I laughed at this satirical response:
Outrage Over Plans to Build Library Next to Sarah Palin
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Comments from others:
Leo: Agree totally...it is interesting how this issue is still with us. This NIMN "not in my neighborhood) Syndrome is prevalent with any "other" that generally provide some physical, mental, or spiritual practice ie. pretty much any treatment, woman's health, or cultural center. I feel this issue was related to racism and hate (and continues even more today due to current events.) I was heard (or read) the phrase that we are very good killing in the name of god, unfortunately we are not very good at loving in the name of god.