The Ground Zero mosque controversy … WOW!
I find the controversy over the proposed Islamic cultural centre near the WTC site in New York fascinating on so many levels. I didn’t really think it would get to this level, but no, it’s a national story now that has a lot of traction in the popular mind. And like any glittering trinket one might find in the mud, I guess it’s worth looking at. And sadly, I think this case is on most levels a wonderful example of what is wrong with America, and how self destructive and cannibalistic the national body politic has gotten. And, frankly, just how divorced from reality so much of the public debate in this country has sunk too. A “debate” where major issues facing the country are ignored or talked about in the most tunnel vision trivialized way, while trivial issues are infused with import and anger. In any event, in no particular order, some observations.
First off, I strongly suspect that the people most offended by this proposed building are the exact same people who insist that Muslims have no reason to get upset over images of Muhammad being published in the western press. If our freedom of the press makes it OK to publish pictures that Muslims find patently offensive, doesn’t freedom of religion mean that Muslims can build a church wherever they want, even if Christians find it patently offensive? Yet I don’t hear any calls to ban both the Mosque and the depictions of Muhammad in publications. It’s hard for me not to see at least some hypocrisy in the “ban the mosque ” camp. No one is talking about banning the Muslim prayer room that is inside the Pentagon either, wouldn’t that also be a great offense to the victims?
Secondly, OBL and his crew were a tiny band (and are still a tiny band) of extremists, not representative of Islam in general. Al Qaeda no more represents Islam than Reverend Phelps or Timothy McVeigh represent Christianity as a whole. I mean, if someone wanted to build a Museum dedicated to OBL and Al Qaeda across the street from Ground Zero, yeah, that would be offensive. Hell, I’d picket that. But a cultural center, the equivalent of a YMCA, blocks away and not even in sight of Ground Zero? So what? And hundreds of Muslims died that day too, it’s not like Al Qaeda attacked only Christians.
This leads to a third disturbing aspect of this. More and more I’m seeing the idea that Muslims aren’t “real” Americans. In fact more and more the right, at least the right typified by people in opposition to this “mosque,” their more or less obvious insinuation is that the only “real” Americans are white Christian Americans. And in many cases it’s simply stated, it’s not hard to find calls for all Muslims to be deported for example. This is both wrong and stupid I am sorry to say. For one thing, blaming national problems on a single minority is a path to madness. Muslims are no more conspiring to destroy America than the Jews conspired to destroy Germany. Moreover, the vast majority of Muslims in America are hard working honest citizens who were just as appalled by 9/11 as anyone else. This is especially the case of immigrants, because it is best and the brightest who emigrate to America. The phrase “brain drain” was coined to describe the huge numbers of Iranians who came to the USA for schooling under the Shah … and liked America so much they stayed. This is one of the things that made America great, not a problem. 9/11 wasn’t committed by American Muslims, so heaping special blame on them makes no sense at all. At best.
Which leads to the thing which most disgusts me about this whole “controversy,” it’s how so many of our leaders, pundits, and politicians enthusiastically wrap themselves in the 9/11 mantle to promote their own narrow self-serving agendas. Before the dust from the Twin Towers even settled it was painfully obvious that we were going to see a massive increase in military spending and government bureaucracy “justified” by 9/11. You would think that the fact that people using box cutters foiled what was already the largest military and intelligence complex in history might have led people to wonder if more of the same was really the answer? Not on Bush’s watch, 9/11 gave them and a million pundits infinite ammunition to promote their own agenda and demonize as a terrorist anyone who wanted to actually debate national policy. A tendency that continues to this day, with the keepers of Bush’s legacy (if destroying the dollar, the US economy, and two failed wars can be called a legacy) still almost gleefully using this issue to demonize anyone who disagrees with them.
Yeah, more hatred, more intolerance, more absence of substantive debate, more deification of a terrible crime, more pundits and leaders using the memory of 3,000 dead Americans to smear their fellow Americans, Muslim and Christian alike. Yes, the WTC mosque issue has it all. Frankly I think those who use 9/11 to further their own agendas are the ones truly dishonoring the memory of the 9/11 victims and heroes. And how about we honor their memory by actually capturing the fellow who made 9/11 a reality? It’s been nearly 9 years now, and Osama Bin Laden is still a free man. What’s up with that?
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit, is central to illustrating the post, and in no way interferes with Google in any way, shape, or form. Basically if people show up at Ground Zero to protest the new “mosque,” they’ll need directions to find it. And how the hell is it that the scene of a terrible crime and massacre is “hallowed ground” anyhow? No disrespect intended, but isn’t that the opposite of hallowed ground?)