I don’t like blogging about politics. I did a bit too much of it in the last presidential election and it left a bad taste in my mouth. People tend not to disagree well and it gets ugly. When you mix religion and politics it gets even uglier. But sometimes I feel compelled to talk about. Being quiet and looking the other way doesn’t help anyone, so we need to speak up.
How sad is it that I hesitate to post this because of our complete inability to have ideological differences? This is what extremism accomplishes.
I’m talking about the current controversy over the proposed Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero in New York City. You can already see the ideological sides lining up based on the language I used. I didn’t call it a mosque and intentionally noted that it’s “near” Ground Zero (two blocks away, in fact), and not “at” Ground Zero. (Now would that language be considered journalistically unbiased because it’s factual, or completely biased because it’s the language one side of the debate prefers?)
Personally, I don’t think an Islamic presence near Ground Zero is big deal. And a whole lot of folks have argued it better than I could, from Christians and Jews, to these couple defenses, to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, to one of the women behind the project, to the Daily Show’s Jon Stewart.
In a nutshell, I think freedom of religion reigns. That’s what makes America great. If people want to argue that it’s too close and too painful and all the rest, I get that, but I respectfully disagree. There’s a difference between religious extremists who turn to terrorism and a worldwide religion of 1.6 billion people. Let’s not forget that non-terrorist Muslims died on 9/11.
And I think that’s where the problem begins. Some people don’t see a difference, and they see all Muslims as terrorists, or at least purveyors of a great evil. That’s why mosques across the country have been protested, including Temecula, Calif., Sheboygan, Wis., Murfreesboro, Tenn., and New Haven, Ct.
And if that’s the rationale—that freedom of religion doesn’t apply because Islam is evil—I don’t understand why these arguments are just coming up now. And perhaps those making these claims would say they’ve argued for this all along, but it just now seems to be catching on. If mosques truly are “jihadist recruitment centers,” isn’t that something for the FBI to sort out? (and it sounds like they’ve done that).
In the end, if someone truly believes that Islam is evil then there’s not much of a discussion to be had. And that’s perhaps why I hesitate to write this post—if any potential commenters believe that, then we’re not going to get very far. At the very least, let’s be up front about that (because too often we spend lots of time arguing before realizing our views are fundamentally divergent and we should just disagree and move on).
I find it depressing when Christians paint all Muslims with the same brush. Christian complain (loudly) when that happens to us, whether it’s the Crusades, the Inquisition or Westboro Baptist Church. And just as critics point to the Koran as proof of Islam’s ills, anyone can point to the Bible for all kinds of out-of-context horrors, be it perpetuating slavery or silencing women. Nevermind the flagrant accusations that Muslims are trying to spread their beliefs, claim political power or receive over-seas funding for new mosques. When Christians start using these arguments against Muslims, we don’t quite realize that atheists (or whoever) could employ the very same arguments against us (we forget how wacky our lingo sounds to those don’t agree with us).
It’s enough to work you up to a frenzy.
Which is why I love stories like this:
A small group of protesters took over a patch of grass across from the Islamic Center of Temecula Valley on Friday for a vocal but relatively tame protest against a proposed mosque, though they were greatly outnumbered by supporters from area churches who were there to support the Islamic Center. (LA Times)