Anniversary of 9/11 and Proposed Mosques Stir National Debate About Islam
It is hard to believe that nine years have elapsed since terrorists devastated our collective national psyche. The attacks left us feeling vulnerable and confused, compelling us to seek swift vengeance against an enemy we couldn’t fully understand. Despite the fact that I never supported the war in Iraq, I understand why initially, the nation overwhelmingly supported the campaign. We did not have the luxury of time to be contemplative or deliberative. We also had little experience dealing with the Arab world. Prior to 9/11, our primary dealings with the Middle East consisted of mediating the peace process between Palestine and Israel. We had an oversimplified understanding of the Muslim world, so it not surprising that we failed to realize that our aggressors were not somehow connected to Saddam Hussein.
Now we have no excuse
You would think that after nearly a decade, we would better know our enemy. Sadly, this is not the case. The ideological battle line that we drew against Islam remains intact, and it fails to account for the difference between Muslim extremists and pacifists. This is painfully obvious if you’ve turned on the news anytime within the past month and seen the reports covering the national uproar concerning the proposed site of an Islamic center near the World Trade Center site.
Where to begin
I couldn’t figure out where all the controversy surrounding this project began, so I took to the internet. I came across a Washington Post article that credits conservative blogger “Pam Geller, a former New York Observer publisher” with leading the charge against the mosque.
“Through her blog, Atlas Shrugs, television interviews and appearances at political rallies, Geller has become one of the chief organizers of opposition to the so-called Ground Zero mosque as well as efforts to build other Muslim prayer centers across the country.”
“Geller has become a prominent voice in the debate despite the fact that she once promoted the view that Obama is Malcolm X’s love child. She frequently warns that Muslims are trying to impose repressive sharia law on the United States, refers to the president’s holiday message to Muslims as “Obama Ramadamadingdong” and promotes a Web site, Religion of Peace,that claims to tally the number of people killed around the world by Muslim extremists.” – WP
OK, OK. She’s a nutbag, but maybe she has a point. Perhaps it is a bit insensitive to build a Muslim center within a stone’s throw (if you’re Roberto Clemente) from the World Trade Center site. But that doesn’t explain the protests at mosques proposed in Tennessee and California.
OK… Now things are starting to sound a bit Reichy
A few weeks ago, construction vehicles parked at the site of the future Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, a Nashville suburb, were set ablaze in an arson incident. As with the people of New York, Tennesseans in Murfreesboro don’t want to see a mosque built in their town. Unfortunately, they don’t have the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history to fall back on as justification for this sentiment. Instead, they’ll settle for blatant racism.
According to the Associated Press, opponents of the Islamic center fear that the mosque will be used as a “terrorist training ground for Muslim militants bent on overthrowing the U.S. government.”
“They are not a religion. They are a political, militaristic group,” said Bob Shelton, a 76-year-old area retiree quoted in the AP article.
According to CBS News, “Shelton was among several hundred demonstrators who recently wore ‘Vote for Jesus’ T-shirts and carried signs that said ‘No Sharia law for USA!’ Others took their opposition further, spray painting a sign announcing the ‘Future site of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro’ and tearing it up.”
Other protesters expressed strong opinions opposing the mosque.
“No mosque in Murfreesboro. I don’t want it. I don’t want them here,” Evy Summers said. “Go start their own country overseas somewhere. This is a Christian country. It was based on Christianity.”
This country was founded on freedom of religion… so long as it’s my religion
Here’s where I take issue. I can understand how the mosque near Ground Zero could be upsetting to people. Moving it out of Manhattan altogether? Probably a bit much, but OK. But what’s the excuse in Tennessee? Or at the Islamic Center of Temecula Valley, where conservative protesters, angry about another proposed mosque, stood outside prayer services “shouting slogans of hate through a bullhorn, carried signs with messages like ‘No More Mosques in America’ and brought along several dogs, hoping to offend Muslim sensibilities.”
Pastor Terry Jones backed his way out of the national spotlight when he decided not to demonstrate against Islam and the New York City mosque by burning a pile of Qurans. He ultimately pulled the plug after Gen. David Petraeus said “the Taliban would exploit the demonstration for propaganda purposes, drumming up anger toward the U.S. and making it harder for allied troops to carry out their mission of protecting Afghan civilians.”
Jones did, however, justify the “Burn a Quran Day” event by saying he’s hurt “when people burn the flag when they burn the Bible [and] when they burn down churches.” Here’s a question for Mr. Jones: When was the last time Muslims in the United States demonstrated against Christianity by burning Bibles and churches? The Hill’s Armstrong Williams put it best:
“God-inspired or not, what Terry Jones was promising to do is simply un-American. We don’t burn our own flags. We don’t like it when others do. And we sure don’t burn the symbols of other cultures and religions simply because we have that right. I respect the constitutional rights of any American — every American, for that matter. But there’s something inherently wrong with what Pastor Jones threatened to do before coming to his senses.”
Time Magazine posed a great question in the title of an August article: “Islamophobia: Does America Have a Muslim Problem?” Can anyone really argue that we don’t? In a Washington Post poll, “49 percent of all Americans say they have generally unfavorable opinions of Islam, compared with 37 percent who say they have favorable ones.” Those numbers don’t really weigh in favor of tolerance.
Ask any Catholic if his religion is practiced the same way a Methodist practices his. Ask a Reform Jew if he practices the same way as a Hasidic Jew. As any Ijtihad (moderate) Muslim if he practices Islam the same way as a Jihadist. All will vehemently defend their faiths as distinct from the other. So before we allow ourselves to label the entire Muslim world as a conglomerate of militant extremists, consider the fact that “’only 15 percent of the fatalities resulting from al Qaeda attacks between 2004 and 2008 were Westerners,” according to a report in the Washington Times. Let us also consider the fact that 94 percent of the terrorist attacks perpetrated in the United States between 1980 and 2005 were perpetrated by non-Muslims.