Friday, August 27, 2010

"The Mosque" Bruhaha

Normally, I don't "do politics" in this blog (I save it for my personal blog- as I can be quite opinionated), but for this particular issue, which has ramifications for the greater pagan community and religious freedom in general, I will make an exception.

Recently, there has been quite the uproar (no doubt the flames are being fanned by Fox News and their ilk) about a specific Muslim community of worship "building a mosque" (sic) 2 blocks from "ground zero" (where thousands of people lost their lives when a handful of religious extremists hijacked planes and ran them into buildings). Because the extremists that killed all those people were Muslim and used their religion as an excuse to harm people, many US citizens now seem to think that all Muslims are evil and should not be allowed to practice their religion, especially in that part of Manhattan.

What gets me is the hypocricy: no one demanded that Christian churches not be built near the previous decade's "ground zero": the Oklahoma City Federal Building. And why would we? We know in the US that these assholes The Christian Identity Movement in no way represent the entire Christian faith. Because we grew up with Christianity and it is familiar to most Americans, the idea that Timothy McVeigh in some way stands for what all Christians stand for is absurd. Yet here we are, 20 years later, saying that some Muslims (who are in no way responsible for the attack on the World Trade Center; in fact they are doing the hard work of trying to reach out and improve Muslim-West relations in the face of overwhelming hostility and racism) cannot build a community center (not a mosque, by the way- a community center like a JCC or a YMCA) out of sight from ground zero.

Let's let the people involved speak for themselves:

NY Daily News Poll
Bereavement groups? Making sandwiches for the homeless? They don't exactly sound like extremists swayed by hate for America, do they? Were you surprised to the see a Rabbi helping to facilitate the process? Were you surprised to hear that the project actually sprung up as a result of 9/11, and that families of victims had been consulted all along? And that most reasonable New Yorkers are fine with the project?

If you have been listening to most of the mainstream and/or right wing media, I bet you were surprised. They love a story with fervor, don't they? They make it sound as if a gargantuan mosque with spinnerets tall enough to be seen at ground zero will be broadcasting people calls to prayer throughout Manhattan 5 times a day. But that's not what this project is.

And you know what? There's nothing wrong with that idea (a traditional mosque several blocks from ground zero), either. Conflating all Muslims with a group of extremists is not just Islamaphobia. It's racism. (Ever wonder why Muslims are always portrayed as dark skinned Middle Easterners instead of, oh say, the Eastern European family that lives downstairs from me? It's easier to "otherize" and hate people that you see as different from yourself. We have a long legacy of vilifying and oppressing dark skinned others in this country, and this is just the latest example. I think we often find it way too easy. )

From Facebook, identities hidden for privacy.
I guess what is really disappointing is that I've seen fellow pagans jumping on this racist anti-Muslim bandwagon. It pains me to see one religious minority condemn another in this country. Do you really think allies like this have your back, heathens, witches, and animists? You don't think that you are next when they get the chance?

John Darkow, Columbia Daily Tribune, Missouri
I agree with Roger Ebert on this one (who knew a film critic wrote political op-eds?). We have a chance to show what the US is supposed to be about here: a land where all are free to live in peace and worship freely. Frankly, we look like jackasses to the rest of the world and like a big target for further extremism. If we do not allow religious tolerance and reconciliation to happen here, extremism will take over, plain and simple. Let the bridge builders do their jobs.  The community center idea is to build bridges after a painful event that affected us all in the United States. "Muslims" and/or "Islam" are not responsible as a whole for 9/11, and we Americans need to start acting like we know that.


  1. I always enjoy reading your blog and today was exquisite! I have been in such disbelief that my fellow Americans, not to mention fellow Christians -- and just fellow decent people -- could say anything other than, "Welcome!" to this project. Isn't love supposed to cast out fear? And isn't our spirituality (of whatever flavor) supposed to be plugged into love? You said it all so beautifully. Thank you!

  2. Thanks, Sharon. This post is so important, I wanna post it again and again, to make sure people read it! I feel really strongly about this.

    Lily, aka Witch Mom


Comments are welcome but moderated. Please be respectful when leaving a comment.