I really was trying not to post about this because I really don’t want to sound like I’m complaining all the time. I am silencing myself no more. There has been a lot of controversy in the news over a mosque being built *near* ground zero, and also a pastor who thankfully resolved to scrub his 9/11 Qur’an burning event. I certainly understand the concern over the location of the mosque, when I first heard the phrase “mosque at ground zero” I was a bit taken aback. However upon following the story and hearing the different views I have to say it’s not that simple, and before anyone goes throwing stones there is a lot to be considered.
Of course, as an Atheist, I would love to see no mosques or churches at all, irrelevant of location, but that’s not fair. Similarly just as I have the right to my freedom of no religion, everyone else has the right to practice any religion they choose as long as they do so constitutionally and within established law. So the issue to me now is not a religious one, but moral and ethical.
I definitely understand the issue of sensitivity. Muslim extremists (this being the key term) took lives in the name of their beliefs. To erect a structure in honor and reverence of the same deity “behind” those acts seems disrespectful to those who lost their lives that day. However like I said in the first paragraph, it’s just not that simple. First of all, the proposed location, Park 51, is already a place of worship for Muslims. Secondly, if you walk around the area, there are strip clubs and porn shops and hot dog stands and liquor stores and big name shops selling overpriced material goods. If the issue is about sacred ground, the neighboring businesses of Park 51 aren’t being very sensitive either. Thirdly, before the World Trade Center was even thought of, “ground zero” was a melting pot for Arab culture. Fourthly, in relation to the prior point, there are hundreds of African slaves, some of them likely Muslim, buried deep beneath ground zero. The area was already hallowed ground when the World Trade Center was built on top of it. And lastly, it’s not like the proposed mosque is going to be a tall white marble building with arabesque embellishing and gold minarets that will outshine the ground zero memorial. The design has a modest, office building-like facade that will blend seamlessly into the surrounding area. To deny peaceful, moderate Muslims the right to an updated place of worship because of sensitivity issues in light of the information above is to hold a big fat double standard. If they can’t build a mosque, none of the other businesses should be able to profit off their ground-zero local. Build a park with trees and grass and lease the existing commerce space to non-profit world peace organizations or something.
Now to touch on what is the title of this post, xenophobia (fear of foreign cultures). Most of the backlash against the mosque is driven by the assumption that all Muslims are terrorists trying to turn America into an Islamic nation. Yeah, some extremists beheaded our reporters, and bombed our buildings and bases and probably want us all to die. But that’s the extremists, Christianity on the whole would probably not wish to be represented by their extremists followers who have multiple wives, slam evolution, bomb abortion clinics, assassinate gay politicians and discriminate against other Christians let alone other religions. It’s not fair to hold all Muslims responsible for 9/11. They all don’t want America to burn. America is secular, it is not and will not be a Christian nation or a Jewish one or a Muslim one. Stop referring to Muslims as “those people” (who caused 9/11). I have had the wonderful opportunity to work with several members of the Muslim faith and they are hard-working, loving and honest citizens who went to American schools and play video games and fantasy football. “Those people” are no different than anybody else and they deserve recognition and respect, not to be demonized and discriminated against. I don’t burn a bible when a Baptist church group disrupts the funeral of a gay service member.
I feel silly having to reiterate all this in my post, but obviously and quite sadly might I add, discrimination is alive and well in America. When will our fear stop crippling us on our path to equality?