Monday, August 2, 2010

The real terror ...

"He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you."

      -- Friedrich Nietzsche

Religion causes a fervor among men that is unparalleled in this world.  The faith and beliefs in a higher power start squabbles as small as dust-ups between citizens and as big as full scale wars between nations.  For the purposes of the United States, three majors religions dominate the landscape -- Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.  Christianity has long since been the most prevalent of the three while Islam is perhaps the fastest growing.  Jews do not actively seek converts, yet still form a significant bloc of American society.

Tensions have existed between Islam and Christianity / Judaism for centuries upon centuries but the latest accelerant came on September 11, 2001 when radical Muslims flew airplanes into both World Trade Center buildings, causing them to collapse.  A wave of anti-Islamic fever swept over mainstream America and cast suspicion on anyone who even looked Arabic. 

In the past nine years, the hysteria toward Muslims has ebbed but another backlash could be reignited with a controversial building project in New York City.  Muslim groups in the Big Apple are in the process of attempting to build a new mosque and Islamic community center.  The snag in the plan?  The property is located two blocks away from Ground Zero. 

Christian groups and particularly Jewish groups have gone ballistic in their protests, drawing out big names on both sides of the issue.  The very influential Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has come out against the plan, along with conservative vixen, Sarah Palin (I will try to hold back my contempt for her). 

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich opined his thoughts in a recent New York Times article, stating,
The World Trade Center is the largest loss of American life on our soil since the Civil War ... and we have not rebuilt it, which drives people crazy. And in that setting, we are told, why don’t we have a 13-story mosque and community center? ... The average American just thinks this is a political statement. It’s not about religion, and is clearly an aggressive act that is offensive.
Palin "tweeted" her thoughts, "Peace-seeking Muslims, pls [sic] understand, Ground Zero mosque is UNNECESSARY provocation; it stabs hearts. Pls [sic] reject it in interest of healing."

Those supporting Muslims' right to build include the very popular mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, who noted local government had no right to interfere with where a religious house of worship should be built.  The Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR - clever, very clever) has also supported the act and noted the ADL's position served only to be more divisive.

The executive director of CAIR, Nihad Awad, that the Islamic faith and New York Muslim community "have nothing to do with 9/11 ... In fact, they have been the victims of 9/11, like anyone else. So why should we allow bigots to limit the rights of American Muslims in New York to build? On what basis? Fear-mongering? Misunderstanding? Bigotry?"

My first response wasn't really a response at all.  I reacted.  I believed building a mosque so close to Ground Zero was a horrible idea -- insulting, an offensive gesture.  Then, I began to think more on it.  In trying to examine this overarching question, several smaller questions popped into my head.

1.  If the mosque is "too close" to Ground Zero, then where would it be okay to build?  In all the articles I've read on this topic, no one seems to be asking this question.  If two blocks isn't appropriate, where is the "line" drawn?  Ten blocks?  20?  Does anyone else see how ridiculous the notion of drawing some line on what's too close to Ground Zero?

2.  Couldn't this set a dangerous precedent?  Absolutely.  Americans can't discriminate against an entire religion for the sins of a few.  How many times do we become irritated when foreigners make presumptions about our citizens based on the actions of a small minority? 

3.  Is this a religious or political issue?  Only a fool would believe religion has nothing to do with this.  Americans still do not fully understand the religion of Islam and we always fear what we don't understand.  When people fear -- they lash out.  Average Americans are extremely skeptical of Muslims.

I haven't seen Americans become hostile when radical Christians kill abortion doctors and blame the entire religion or cast doubt on the entire religion because of fradulent "preachers" or abusive priests.  Would local governments be allowed to stop the building of a Catholic church near a school?

4.  What does this say about our values and society?  If New York City allows this building project to be blocked, then all of our American beliefs on freedom appear to be only lip service.  What good is it to have ideals and standards if we choose to ignore them because we are afraid?

The First Amendment of United States Constitution guarantees the freedom to choose to worship or not worship in any way we choose.  Restricting where a house of worship could be placed is dangerous.  This is the real terror inflicted upon us -- causing unrest within our society and making us doubt our very selves and give in to hate and fear.  I do not support Islam and my own beliefs greatly conflict with them, but if they have the resoures and the property, then let them build.  What better way could there be to live up to what we aspire to be.

Here's to hoping we don't become the monster.

6 comments:

  1. Don I basically agree. As distasteful as people may find it they are certainly within their rights to build one at the location.

    One thing I would add is it has become very common for communities to use zoning laws to block the building of churches. Not sure how that fits in but it probably does somewhere

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  2. One of the books I read about terrorism had a very interesting quote. I can't remember it exactly, or even where I read it from, but I'll give you gist because I think it kind of fits here.

    It basically is about a bee flying into a moving car. The car is much stronger than the bee, and so are the people inside of it. But, the people freaking out about the bee cause a major carwreck, which does more damage than the bee ever could.

    Basically it's talking about the overreaction terrorism can cause within countries. The real quote is a lot better. I'll see if I can find it.

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  3. Scalise, you basically articulated everything I wanted to about this issue in a very excellent way. The moment I heard this news, I wouldn't say I felt hostile, but I did feel...well, curious. I have seen fliers, FB profile pictures, and propaganda spreading the news that Muslims ought not be allowed to build a mosque on Ground Zero (GZ). But to come to find that the plans are to build the mosque 2 blocks away from GZ made me ask the same questions: How close is too close? Why are we limiting the freedom of American citizens? Of course the Church can claim it is being persecuted by zoning laws, etc. but why would we choose to do the same thing? Why not show love to these Muslims and allow them to build, yet tell them we do not believe they are correct in their beliefs?

    It's just like you said (and probably heard said before), we fear what we do not understand. It is human nature. Christians fear and hate evolution and old earth advocates simply because they do not understand the two. Yet after doing much research on the topics and study (both philosophically and biologically), I have come to find that theories like these do not hold much water and further aid me in my faith in Christ! Ironic isn't it? It shouldn't be...

    And if we truly began to understand the world religions for what they are, I think we could not only grow in our faith, but be able to better love these people and truly act like Jesus.

    Good post. 4/4 Stars :D

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  4. 9/11 was an inside job.

    http://www.911truth.org/

    http://www.infowars.com/

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  5. Reminded me of this funny... http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/wed-july-7-2010/wish-you-weren-t-here

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  6. You had me at Nietzsche. ;) Of course it seems to me that preventing the construction of an Islamic center would be an over reach of power by the government and would be incredibly inconsistent historically (being that if we were to limit the location of churches in the vicinity of atrocities committed in the name of Christianity, churches all over the world would be doomed). However, we are free to question intent and purpose, and we are free to voice our concerns, and it’d be nice to be able to do so without being labeled a bigot. The Cordoba Initiative aims to improve Muslim-West relationships and decrease tensions and increase respect. Is erecting this center at/near this particular site the best move in achieving this initiative? I think this is a valid question to ask. There is no denying that they have the legal right to do what they wish with their property, but I also understand that for many Americans, the decision to build an Islamic center here will reinforce their concerns (whether valid or not) about Islam’s provocative nature. Just the mention of constructing this center here has created a divide and further alienated so many people. I guess it’s sort of like this, you build your center because you are afforded that freedom in America, but if this is part of your plan for winning people’s hearts, get a new PR person, because yours sucks.

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