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Buddhism in the News


Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Ground Zero Mosque Gets "O.k." but Still Faces Opposition.

So the much ballyhooed "Ground Zero Mosque" will go ahead and be built, which isn't just the right thing to do--It's the American thing to do. The opposition to this mosque said that it was too close to the "Ground Zero" site and was thus a slap in the face to the memorial of those Americans who died during the September 11th terrorist attacks. First of all let's clear something up right away; there were Muslims who died on 9/11 along side Christians and Jews. Including innocent Muslims upon the planes used as missiles. So when they say this mosque is spitting upon the memory of those who died I guess they only mean Judeo-Christians. This is intolerance disgustingly hidden behind the American flag to soften the face of their hatred toward all Muslims. Increasingly Americans are packaging radical beliefs behind symbols of good old Americana, which unfortunately often legitimizes such extremist ideologies to the vulnerable.

The people who are opposing the building of this mosque and cultural center are also standing in opposition to religious freedom in America, which we supposedly hold dear. This reverence for the freedom of religion is ironically often espoused by the very same people who are protesting this mosque!! They say this mosque is a monument to radical Islamic terrorism, which is beyond insulting and embarrassing to listen to as an American who works hard to be inclusive. It is the height of arrogance, stupidity and bigotry to lump all Muslims of the world in with Islamic terrorists who probably consist of less than one percent of the worlds BILLIONS of Muslims. Sadly, however, this is the kind of ugliness you often hear from Americans whose only connection with Islam is the 9/11 terrorists and the wars against al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

Anyone who has interacted with an average Muslim knows the truth; that most Muslims are peaceful, kind and tolerant of others. I spent two years living in West Africa where Islam is a popular belief system, and some of the nicest people I met there were in fact Muslim. The Muslims I met would invite me into their homes off the street and feed me like a welcome guest. And the irony perhaps to some was that I was there in West Africa as an official Christian missionary!! But that wasn't important to them or myself. I was a guest in their country and guests are treated with great respect in many Muslim households.

Out of respect for that invitation I refrained from talking religion but when the subject was raised by them, I would discuss it. However, it was always respectfully discussed by both sides. And interestingly, when we did converse about faith it was often about what we had in common rather than apart. Rather than preached to or insulted for my religion at the time, I was often shown the passages within the Qu'ran that speak reverently about Jesus Christ. And I, in turn, asked respectful questions to learn about a religion that was new to me at the time. Islam isn't an "evil" religion and most people would find that if they had an open, respectful and honest dialogue with the average Muslim that they'd find more in common than not.

In the end, Americans need to come to terms with what it means to be an American. If you think it's o.k. to ban a mosque because of 9/11 then by that same logic we should ban churches close to the sites of abortion clinic bombings too.

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Adam said...

Nicely written James.

echo said...

Thank you so much for posting this. I'll admit, when I first heard about the proposed mosque and Muslim cultural center, I was concerned. I thought, "Why there? Why force something that will obviously make many people uncomfortable?" But it's important to call attention to the misunderstandings that so many Americans have about Islam.

I hope that the new center works to unite ALL Americans who were affected by the tragedy of September 11.

Mumon said...

Check out Mayor Bloomberg's speech, which I blogged about here.

It was deeply moving, especially after my recent time in Flushing NY.

Son of Wisdom said...

Beautifully put, brother! Amen, Amen, and Amen. May the walls of intolerance fall away.

qbrick said...

'Cordoba House'. Cordoba - the capitol of the territory conquered by muslim armies on the spanish peninsula. The Cordoba mosque in the understanding of the calif and the muslim population was an announcement of further muslim wars on the european continent, a bridge-head of muslim rule over europe. In western europe too, in many many cases, mosques are given names of muslim conquerors against the occindent or names of locations connected with such events. I always wonder, why it is so? Why don't the people and organizations behind the building projects give names that unmistakingly serve as a symbol of peaceful coexistance instead of giving names connected with historic religious wars or with the dominance of one over the other? I think, we have to be careful not to mix the individual with and organization. The latter has a political agenda, while when dealing with the former, there is a chance that even a mildly zealous person would find friendly words of tolerance in a talk with an (in their thinking) infidel.

The true person is a person without name or rank.

Scottish Buddhist said...

I think that if i seen this piece a couple of months ago. I would have probably let my racial views blind my judgement.

But over the past month or so i have found that i am becoming more tolerable and compassionate to things that may have rattled me in the past.

Hopefully if this stubborn old Scot can change his ways. Maybe just maybe others can to.

Thank you for writing and sharing this with us.



They call him James Ure said...

Thanks Adam.

@Echo...I agree, and I think it must be said that we should all question our discomforts. Often I think our discomforts stem from ignorance, fear and attachment; attachment to biases that might make us feel better but isolates and causes suffering to others.

You're absolutely right that we need to educate ourselves about things we fear. I've heard that the center will work on interfaith dialogues, which is a great sign.

@Mumon...Thanks. I agree it is moving and well stated. He really sums it up well I think. I thought this paragraph was especially spot on point:

"Whatever you may think of the proposed mosque and community center, lost in the heat of the debate has been a basic question – should government attempt to deny private citizens the right to build a house of worship on private property based on their particular religion? That may happen in other countries, but we should never allow it to happen here. This nation was founded on the principle that the government must never choose between religions, or favor one over another."

@Sons of Wisdom...Agreed. Intolerance of all kinds is an obstacle in all religions and ideologies.

They call him James Ure said...

@Qbrick...Thank-you for your comment. I got my college degree in History with an emphasis in African and Middle-Eastern histories, so I'm familiar with this subject. Cordoba means different things to different people. Agreed, there was violence surrounding the city of Cordoba, Spain but it involved both Christians and Muslims.

Indeed it was conquered by the Muslims. However, several historical sources show that for the time, they were fairly tolerant (especially given the era that they lived in) of their new Christian and Jewish subjects.

Was it the kind of tolerance you find today? No, probably not but for the times they lived in the caliphate in Cordoba was much more tolerant than most cities of the day--both Muslim AND Christian.

Cordoba under the caliphate was considered one of the most sophisticated cities in the then known world.

The Christians of Spain weren't exactly bloodless with their dealings with the Muslims of the time--including of course the crusades of the Christians.

Cordoba under the Muslims Christians and Jews were allowed religious freedom and a certain amount of self-rule, which you have to admit is more than most cities in the region (and world) did in relation to people of different faiths.

Granted, they charged them a tax to live there but they could have simply executed them all, which some places in the region during those times usually did upon conquest.

It should also be noted that when the Christians reconquered Spain from the Muslims they didn't just kick out the Muslims but also the Jews. Not exactly tolerance there.

For many Muslims, Cordoba is a reminder of a zenith of their history. Yes, it was started by conquest but so was much of Christian society of Europe against the Pagans. My hope is that the NYC Muslims are hearkening back to the good that came out of the caliphate.

Given the NYC Cordoba House has explicitly said that interfaith dialogue and interaction will be a key part of the mission--I take them at their word for now. Should they not live up to that and begin to behave otherwise then I will be disappointed. However, I don't think a name should be what prevents them from building a mosque and cultural center.

After all, how much violence and intolerance came from the Vatican? Yet today it is considered one of the most benevolent cities in the world. I am against intolerance on all levels and again, should this center go in an opposite direction than they are stating--I will be the first to criticize them.

I also take comfort in knowing that Rabbi Arther Waskow of the Shalom Center has agreed with the building. As have many other non-Islamic leaders.

I agree with you that the center has an agenda but so do churches, synagogues, temples, organizations, political parties, corporations and ngos. We need to remember too that some (not all) of the opponents of this mosque have an agenda too.

They call him James Ure said...

@Scottish Buddhist...Hey!! I congratulate you on your over-coming an obstacle in your path. We all could do with a dose of your willingness to challenge your opinions and willingness to change.

Samuel said...

James - great post. I wrote a paper for a soc. of religion class on Islam and the attitudes of Muslims in the West - and surprise, surprise - they aren't terribly different from the rest of us.

I'm a little concerned about the ever-growing sentiment in America against foreigners of all stripes. It's nothing new and has always come up throughout history - but I think it's just a reflection of our own insecurity.

Immigrants are less likely than the general population to commit crimes - but that's not the impression you get from the evening news. With a billion Muslims, even if only .001% were involved with terrorism - it would still be a large number but statistically insignificant for the population as a whole. I doubt the actual rate differs much from other populations - but it's always easier to hate outsiders.

Anyway, as Adam said, nicely written.

They call him James Ure said...

@Samuel...Yes, every time there is an economic downturn the insecure and fearful blame the immigrants. It is sad because immigrants have always been the life-blood of this country. We are a nation of immigrants. None of us are natives except, well, the Native American Indians.

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