Thursday, September 02, 2010

"Ground Zero Mosque": The Debate That Should Have Never Existed

I'm positive that I don't need to explain the "Ground Zero Mosque' to anyone, because this has probably been the hottest debate in the news and internet for the last month. There has been numerous political and news figures who have depicted the proposed 'mosque' as an attack on freedom, America, and the 9/11 victims. This has provoked countless discussions and blogs on the internet and numerous protests in the public. It has also given me one of the biggest headaches and cases of inner fury in a long, long, long time. This is not only a case of political posturing, but one of the worst examples of close mindedness and bigotry in the modern age. People with far more power than they deserve (Hi Glenn and Sarah!)have manipulated conservative minded people into unifying against the building of the 'mosque' because according to them, it will not only dishonour victims but will be the first step towards the fall of America. What was once (and should have always been) a civil issue has ballooned into a national dilemma (and actually, has barged its way into Canada as well). The problem is that many people opposed to the 'mosque' are misguided, and even worse, many of the people originally stirring up this issue are filled with hatred and bigotry focused agendas.

The first major problem with this whole debate is the title of 'Ground Zero Mosque' or the '9/11 Mosque.' Because that implies that 1) it is being built on the ground zero site, and 2) that it is a mosque. It is actually neither. The proposed building is being built about 2 blocks away from where the 9/11 atrocity took place. As for the building, it is going to be a Muslim community centre which is designed to cater to all citizens in the surrounding area (meaning, it doesn't matter your religious beliefs). Yes, there will be a prayer room for Muslims, but it was also planned to have things like a basketball court, which last I checked was not a strictly Muslim thing. Essentially, the thing that is causing people the greatest uproar -- "By Jimminy, they be building an Islamic religious thingy right where that big explosion made by the Muslims happened" -- is actually not even true. But let's ignore all that because obviously its detractors have, and concentrate on the fact there is a semi-religious building for Muslims being built near one of the most tragic sites in American history.

The big argument for those against this 'mosque' is that the building is a huge slap in the face of the victims. The assumption here, is that the 'mosque' is essentially honouring the maniacs who flew planes into the World Trade Center, rather than the poor victims. Now it is true that the terrorists considered themselves Muslim. It is also true that they did it with a misguided notion they were following the commands of Allah. But just because a group of radical lunatics claim to be of a religion, doesn't actually mean the majority of the level headed and loving people in that religion agree with them.

For example, the Westboro Baptist Church, lead by the raving lunatic Fred Phelps, consider themselves both Christians and Baptists. As far as I can tell, they spend their entire time spreading the message of bigotry and hate, and do such reprehensible acts like picketing the funerals of soldiers and creating websites like 'God Hates Fags'. The church and the man are absolutely disgusting. But I am positive there isn't a single Christian I know, or almost any level minded and reasonable and loving Christian that would condone or support any of these actions. They would probably go as far as to say, they wouldn't even consider Fred Phelps or his cult to be Christian. I would agree with them. But you see, this also needs to be afforded to all the loving and compassionate Muslims out there.

I know a few Muslims that I would consider really good friends. I can guarantee you that they don't condone the terrorist jihad of Osama Bin Laden or Al Quaeda. I also know they would not only consider them to be terribly misguided, but also not true Muslims.

The crime committed on September 11th, 2001 in New York was not done by Muslims. It was perpetuated by sick, sadistic, vile maniacs. If anyone happened to propose a monument to maniacs at the ground zero site, then I'd be the first to oppose it. But they haven't, because that would be stupid. Just like it is stupid and bigoted to claim it was all of Muslims that attacked America on 9/11.

The thing is, Osama and his nutjobs likely don't consider the Muslims in America to be actual Muslims. Just like I am sure the insane Ted Phelps doesn't consider Christians outside of his cult to be actual Christians. Because you see, that is how maniacs think, and is why we consider them maniacs (they think they are right and their brand of crazy is the way to believe). On 9/11 it was an attack against all of America, which included the Muslims who lived there. I am sure these last several years have been just as hard, if not even harder (due to having put up with rising hatred and bigotry), for the American Muslims. That day was just as much a tragedy for them, because America was their country too. Unfortunately, this awful incident has cause some people to see this as a Us vs. Them, and the 'them' has turned into all practicing Muslims. To the point, that I'm sure some of you have heard (either in person or in news clips), folks spout out that a female Muslim wearing a hijab or any visible Muslim are not 'real Americans'. I am not claiming that bigotry was erased before 9/11, but I do know, that the attacks made life harder for those Americans (and I admit, harder for almost everyone). Now, they have to suffer through being called a terrorist or a foreigner in the the very nation they were born in. This most recent debate has now reignited these hurtful and ferocious verbal (and physical) attacks.

Another thing about 9/11, is people opposed to the 'mosque' seem to forget that America, and especially New York, is a rather diverse place. I promise you that there was definitely innocent Muslims in the planes and the towers on 9/11. This means Muslim families lost loved ones in that tragedy. So, not only have they possibly had to suffer through accusations for years, but they've had to recover from the great loss on that day. All Americans, no matter their religion, suffered on 9/11 and they all deserve to grieve.

The opposition to the 'mosque' like to ignore, that there is this thing called freedom of religion. People have the right in America (and Canada) to practice any type of religion they choose. As long as they aren't causing any harm to others (such as sacrificing their neighbour's puppy), then they are afforded the freedoms to practice their religions without persecution. This means that Muslims have the right to build a Mosque in New York. They have the right to worship in New York. They should not have to be accused of jihad or of trying to destroy democracy by building a semi religious oriented structure.

Despite what some close minded and hatred filled folks may believe, most Muslims don't have a world conquering agenda. North American Muslims likely love where they live (at least, when they aren't being called 'towel heads' or 'terrorists'), and don't have too many plans to destroy the place they consider home. Despite the numerous web sites and videos that may state otherwise, Muslims are not attempting to attack or overthrow America. The Muslim community centre is not the next symbolic brick in their planned stronghold over democracy and freedom. I am not denying there are forces against the west, but they're all maniacs and hate filled radicals. Though the sad thing is not all of these hate filled radicals are from the east (like Osama and thugs), but they are actually living in America and claim themselves to be 'good' Americans.

I wish this proposal of this building could have been a non issue. I wish that 9/11 and claims of 'attacks against America' weren't dragged into this discussion. Above all, I wish that innocent and loving Muslims weren't once again painted as the 'other'. I will forever remember the tragedy that was 9/11, and I hope to never downplay it. But attacking a specific religion does not honour those victims or protect us from the threats facing the west. If anything, the opposition continues to cause friction and tear a rift between Americans (because SURPRISE Muslims are Americans too). It only furthers the damage done on September 11th, by taking away the religious freedoms and rights of a large group of people. Hopefully, eventually the majority can truly see the damage being done by the opposition to this building, and the ideology that inspires it.

27 comments:

  1. Anonymous11:19 pm

    Valid argument. But within your argument lies, a concrete problem.

    When is to much...is religious expression okay? What happens if religious expression becomes a Jihad or a Christian crusade?

    America has always labeled itself a "Christian country" therefore, why is it hard to belief that people would be opposed to a mosque. A muslim country in the middle east wouldn't allow a Christian church or community centre to be built, so why does America have to allow a mosque or a islamic community centre?

    I agree with you, don't get me wrong. I am just addressing the other side of the coin.

    Maybe too much religious expression is actually detrimental to a country then it is positive.

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  2. The problem is, America has only been labeled as a 'Christian country' by a certain group of people. The nation was founded on religious freedom, and for the last several decades has constantly tried to push civil rights.

    The fact America would allow a mosque is exactly what makes it different than the nations that wouldn't allow a church. America is about giving freedoms and rights to all people, and the issue with the mosque opposition, is that it was a suppression of rights and freedoms. As I stated, there is Muslim Americans, and so they should be able to have their places of worship.

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  3. Anonymous11:35 pm

    Matthew David Burkholder via Facebook:

    like this.

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  4. Anonymous11:35 pm

    Davey Flikkema via Facebook:

    likes this.

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  5. Anonymous11:36 pm

    Matthew David Burkholder via Facebook:

    Excellent article. I too was outraged at all the rhetoric. Your article reminded me of this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZpT2Muxoo0

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  6. Anonymous11:36 pm

    Davey Flikkema via Facebook:

    Good job. Doesn't Glen Beck claim to be a libertarian? He is definitely not approaching the issue as one, and that frustrates me. Also when they blow something like this out of proportion I get the urge to put on my tinfoil hat and start looking through the back pages to see what is being glossed over.

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  7. Matthew: I've seen that video before, and I largely agree with it, though I feel Olberman is a little over dramatic. Then again, so were the people he was ranting against.

    Davey: I don't know what Beck claims to be, but I do know he is an asshole. I also don't think the issue is what is being glossed over, but rather what is being outright fabricated or exaggerated to the extreme.

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  8. Anonymous9:33 am

    To anonyous,
    I have been doing some thinking about it, and I don't think that the problem is all too concrete. Religious expression does not lead to a Jihad or a Crusade. Violence more seems to stem from things like oppression, vengence, politics, ect. If a democratic society (which claims people are equal and have the right to religion) believes that religious expression could lead to such violence, then they would really have to limit all forms of religion to keep things equal.

    And I think it can definately be said that the United States is not a Christian country. There is no marriage between church and state, except that the state realizes that a lot of votes can be won by by using Christian rhetoric (and I am not making that fact up... it is how Carl Rove won the election for Bush in 2004). I think it was interesting that in Obama's inauguration address he quotes Thomas Paine, which could be a subtle but not so subtle way of furthering the notion that America is not a Christian state.

    Anywho, tis my thoughts on it. Take care

    Scott

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  9. Anonymous2:02 pm

    You said, in your first comment, "America is about giving freedoms and rights to all people"

    But what happens when "giving freedoms and rights to all people" take away the rights and freedoms of someone else.

    Your liberal view is very nice and in a perfect world I guess it would be okay, but the truth of the matter is that we aren't in a perfect world.

    For instance what if the religious view of one group allowed rape, polygamy, child sacrifice?

    Does the government step in and do something? I think your views have serious problems, maybe you need to reevaluate the outcome of such idea.

    Scott, but Jihad and crusades are rooted in religion. Therefore, you cannot argue that there are a product of violence, politics, and etc.

    Thoughts?

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  10. I actually stated in my article that a person is allowed religious freedom as long as it isn't harming other people. I do not believe that the right to practice your religion allows one a license to do whatever they want. But again, we are talking about the building of a community centre, which to my knowledge will not have rape parties or children sacrifices.

    I do believe that religion is the main force used to manipulate the masses into crusades or jihads. I question if it is the actual root for the people in charge. I am sure it is an element of it but I also feel political and selfish means are the driving forces.

    Quick question, are you the same person I had been discussing with in the comments section of the Jennifer Knapp article? If so, I had posted a response a few days ago, but I am not sure if you had read it.

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  11. Anonymous10:17 pm

    I guess it could indeed be said that Crusades and Jihad are rooted in religion, but that does not make them religions. The Aryan Nation is itself rooted in religion. Biblically, there is no backing for a Crusade. I am not a scholar on the teachings of Islam, but I do know that Jihad is not one of the five pillars. As well, it does not necessarily mean and offensive war, but rather a Holy War to defend the nations of Islam.

    I would have to say that it is very easy to argue that they are the products of more than just religion. The crusades, for example, use religion as a way to justify the war. Alexius Comenus (head of the Byzantium Empire) was having a hard time reclaiming land from invading forces and stabilizing his defences. He requested help from Pope Urban II, and used the religious focus of infidels defiling Jerusalem as a way to rile the West up to come with aid. Urban took the plea before a council and later declared the need to journey to Jerusalem and recover it.

    Though it was pitched as a Holy War (with soldiers being promised remision of sins, something that could not actually be promised), there was a great deal of political advantage that Urban was looking for in the process. The war was a way for Urban to gain power over the churches in the East which were not on good terms with the Pope, and questioned his authority. By assisting the East, the Pope saw that the Catholic church could be established as the religion of the known world.

    As well, the war was a way for the Pope to grow in power over the Empire. With strife between the Papacy and Empire (called Investiture Contest) at the time, the magnitude of the forces that set out to the East (one that the Empire could not muster) was used to show that the Pope indeed had more power and muscle than the Empire itself.

    With the success of the war, power did indeed shift the balance of power from Empire to Papacy. It began with a plea from the Byzantium Empire who was having issues with their defences, to a way to secure the Catholic churches dominance in religion and state. Religion was used as the pitch to get the public behind it and to gain soldiers who were prepared to die for a cause.

    This is just one example. Religion is something that people can get behind and be willing to die for, so smart politicians (of past and present) know the importance of using it wisely (this seemed to be a key element that Machiavelli recommended). As I mentioned it before, George Bush used it specifically in his campaign for a second term, and it is estimated that by using strong religious stances (and Carl Rove has admitted that the moral stances were a campaign tactic) they secured almost a quarter of the votes that election, which was the deciding factor in Bushes victory. Therefore, I can argue that they are the product of things such as politics (and I never stated that it was a product of violence).

    This has turned out to be a longer reply than intended. I hope it didn't seem harsh.

    Scott

    P.S. none of that is from Wikipedia, but from academic research

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  12. Anonymous10:20 pm

    Chris, just read your post... yes, manipulate is a good word. An arguement to war needs strong pathos, and it is hard to get one stronger than that of religion and the belief of good vs evil.

    Scott

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  13. Anonymous11:00 pm

    Davey Flikkema via Facebook:

    Beck is more likely a neo-con. I wasn't saying that they are glossing over this issue, but more likely using this issue to steal the focus from more important things going on that actually deserve our focus, things that are usually reported in the back pages of the newspapers but never talked about.

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  14. Davey: Sorry, I totally misunderstood you there. I definitely agree that certain media outlets or figures have a habit of making benign issues into major news. Meanwhile you have scour to find out the things that really matter.

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  15. Anonymous11:01 pm

    Scott Martin via Facebook:

    Well said... very well said.

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  16. Anonymous11:02 pm

    Jeff Tudhope via Facebook:

    Well said Chris

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  17. Anonymous11:02 pm

    Gerry G-Qu Quammie via Facebook:

    Here here! Wicked man!

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  18. Thanks guys. And thanks stupidity for always giving me material to blog about.

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  19. Anonymous11:22 pm

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  20. Anonymous11:25 pm

    wow lots of grammatical errors in that post...here's a revised post with less errors.

    Spicer,

    I am indeed the Jennifer Knapp commentor. I don't want to come across as being anti-spicer, but my comments have struck up conversation, which I guess is good for popularity in the realm of blogs.

    Alright here's my issue: When is it okay to be tolerant and not okay to not be tolerant?

    Christianity is always scrutinized by Christians and non alike. For some reason its like its politically incorrect to stand up for the Christian faith, because the Christian faith offends other faiths and condemns. What is wrong with that?

    Ya as Christians we are called to love our neighbour. But just because I love my neighbour doesn't mean I let my neighbour do whatever he/she wants to do in my backyard.

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  21. Anonymous12:29 am

    What if it is their backyard as well?

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  22. Anonymous12:44 pm

    Gerry G-Qu Quammie via Facebook:

    There will always be a never ending pool of that.

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  23. I don't regard disagreeing with one person's particular view to be an example of being 'anti' that person. I think, even the people who are nodding their heads in agreement with this post can scour the blog for an article they have an opposing view on. I appreciate dissenting views as long as they are civil, which yours are.

    First of all, I don't think this issue is necessarily a Christian vs. Muslim issue. Some of the vocal critics against the community centre are not openly religious, such as Pat Condell.

    I also think you can stand up for the Christian faith but still be tolerant and accepting of others (especially when their lifestyle or religion is different). When you live in a society that is ingrained with the traits of diversity and acceptance, then you are asking for some trouble when you want certain groups to have some rights revoked (as long as they aren't directly harming anyone).

    I suggest you be careful with the statement about not letting people do whatever they want in your backyard. Similar statements were used by groups that went on to commit mass atrocities against fellow countrymen. You need to remember these Muslims are American too, or in the case of Canada, Canadian. They are required the same respect and rights to religion as any Christian is.

    I do agree one has the right to scrutinize or even make their opinions known about a particular groups. But that person needs to be open to the very same scrutiny, especially if their criticism is based on ignorance or bigotry.

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  24. Anonymous2:02 pm

    Now don't get me wrong. I am not opposed to the Mosque. I am simply addressing the other side of the coin.

    For instance, yes American and Canadians are tolerant and accepting of other religions. That's just who we are, and the freedom to choose religion is one's own choice.

    But what about the scrutiny of Christianity. For instance up until the past fews year we could say "Merry Christmas" without opposition. But now, we can't say Merry Christmas because we are to scared to offend someone of another religion.

    Why does it seem that Christians have to "bend over" and accept everyone else, yet Christianity comes under all kinds of scrutiny and critics.

    I agree we need to be tolerant and accepting. I think Christianity is the most accepting religion of diversity. That's what is so amazing about Jesus, he hung out with diversity and calls the diverse to him.

    In conclusion: let the mosque be built, but don't get on my case for saying Merry Christmas! If you want to be tolerated then be tolerant as well.

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  25. I've never heard of a Christian group being stopped from being able to build a Church. Which is what would be a fair comparison to the community centre being proposed in New York.

    The wishing of 'Merry Christmas' is a very different thing. But also, I really don't think there is that many folks opposed to it. I have Muslim friends and I wish them Merry Christmas every year without any riots or bedlam. I also see 'Merry Christmas' still prominent in ads, or stores, or on the internet.

    I honestly don't see Christians being scrutinized or persecuted more than other religious groups (or non religious groups). I do hear Christian complain about how they are often the victims, but that is different than being actually true. In Canada, many of the prominent political figures are Christians, and many recent policies or moves have been done to please the far right Christians. As for the States, there is several powerful groups that are essentially designed to move Christian agendas forward.

    So, we may have to accept that we view the landscape very differently.

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  26. It's interesting that the "Mosque at Ground Zero" conversation even had to happen, since it's NOT a mosque and it's NOT at Ground Zero. We are so good at making something out of nothing. There's absolutely nothing wrong with Muslims being able to make a community centre in New York City, where there are thousands of churches & community centres that cater to all kinds of religious groups.
    I agree with Christopher that the ability to say "Merry Christmas" is hardly a comparison to being stopped from building a community centre. As a Christian, I've never once experienced anyone getting angry or stopping me from saying Merry Christmas. In fact, one of my Muslim friends says it to me, because she knows what it means to me.
    It's so sad that many christians feel persecuted. I do not feel persecuted, I have felt judged before & the assumptions of what I must think or believe because I am a "christian" by terms, but I try to look at it this way: That must be how other people feel in their own religion. Exactly how many Muslims feel when they are assumed radicals or that they would condone the behaviors of Al Qaeda, when they are in fact, peaceful, loving people who would never want to end someone else's life.
    Christopher, this debate upsets my stomach. I know it is yet another ridiculous topic that people are discussing and that you wanted to weigh in. But I wish that you wouldn't pay heed to a subject so ridiculous & disrespectful.
    I encourage you to not watch Fox News, you will only get more upset.
    Much love to you, friend.

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  27. I never watch Fox News by choice, but I also can't help eventually finding out about the nonsense they are peddling.

    Also, I agree, Molly, that this entire debate is ridiculous and never should have happened. Actually, that is essentially the main argument of my entire article. But the sad reality is, even though it never should have been global news, it has become that. And not only for Fox News, but for several different media outlets (and countless blogs and online sites).

    I don't think I could just ignore it and pretend it didn't happen. As a writer, I felt I needed to say my piece and give a voice for those who may agree but not feel comfortable writing it. The fact is, when another asinine but major story breaks, I am likely to write about it again then too.

    People will have the choice to either ignore what I write, or agree with what I write, or add a dissenting comment about what I write. I am okay with that, because that is the beauty of freedom.

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