Monday, August 16, 2010

Cordoba Islamic Cultural Center (w/mosque) Becomes Ground Zero For Religious Intolerance and Bigotry

In case you have missed the wildfire-like development of what has become America's Latest & Greatest National Issue.

It began about two weeks ago.

I'd been trying to ignore the issue.

To me, it was just another case of up-for-election Republicans and other right-wing, conservative, agitating panic-button pushers, well... you know..pushing certain people's "panic buttons".

I was confident then and I am confident now that the U.S. Constitution will win out over irrationality, various forms of bigotry and that ugly "Us(Americans) V. Them(Americans)" mentality.

Still, things would occasionally pop-up on my radar...

One evening, a late night news program I had been watching - it was on more for noise than for my actual visual attention - made the unfortunate decision to shine a light on a Tweet sent out by Twit(terer) Sarah Palin:

"Ground Zero Mosque supporters: doesn't it stab you in the heart, as it does ours throughout the heartland? Peaceful Muslims, pls refudiate."

*First: It is Not a "Ground Zero Mosque". The project is for the Cordoba Islamic Cultural Center - kind of like the YMCA. (It includes a Mosque but, so what? The structure - it was a Burlington Coat Factory until 9/11- is one which Muslims currently use for prayers.) The construction site is located at least two blocks away from the former WTC.
Second: "Peaceful Muslims"?
Third: "Refudiate" is not a word.

That was followed by tweet #2:

"Peaceful New Yorkers, pls refute the Ground Zero mosque plan if you believe catastrophic pain caused @ Twin Towers site is too raw, too real"

(* Refute: "To prove wrong.")

Third time's the charm?

"Peace-seeking Muslims, pls understand, Ground Zero mosque is UNNECESSARY provocation; it stabs hearts. Pls reject it in interest of healing"

What's with the "Peace-seeking Muslims..."? Why the qualifier?
"Peace-seeking"? As opposed to... what?
"77 Virgin-obsessed, terror baby cell-making, freedom-hating Muslims, maybe?

As with most blatant examples of religious bigotry and/or xenophobia... much hilarity ensued and before long, all three Tweets became "Deletes".

Much ado was made of the trio of tweets and of the responses of various people to the former and failed Vice Presidential candidate's intolerance-inciting tweets.

Finally, after she'd gotten it all off of her chest, she tried for funny:

Palin tweeted the following:
“English is a living language. Shakespeare liked to coin new words too. Got to celebrate it!”

Yes, it's living and in a constant state of siege.
As for "Shakespeare" ~ Ms. Palin, May I present to you An Irrefutable Truth:
The sum total of all that you and William Shakespeare have in common is only surpassed by one thing: The sum total of all that George W. Bush and The Bard have in common.
Now, I promise to Celebrate, if you will go hibernate.


Last night (Monday), from the moment that I first became aware of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's official statement on the Islamic Cultural Center Issue...

I was surprised. I was angry. I simply couldn't ignore it no longer.

(Statement made by Reid's spokesman):

"The First Amendment (of The US Constitution) protects freedom of religion."
Senator Reid respects that but thinks the mosque should be built someplace else."

Really, Senator Reid?

Here's what I think:

First of all... Senator Reid, you live in Nevada. M.Y.O.B.

If you're really bored or have too much free time... Take that excess energy and go hold fundraisers and campaign against the nuttiest little fruitcake in Nevada: Ms. Sharron Angle, your Republican opponent in the upcoming election.

Regarding your above statement: I think that, one phrase in the second sentence of your statement - starting from the "but" (5th word) and ending with the "else" (13th)...

Well, that phrase pretty much invalidates, nulls and voids both the first sentence of your statement and the first four words of the second sentence ("Senator Reid respects that...").

If you respect our U.S Constitutionally-Protected Right To Freedom of Religion, as you claim... Then your alleged "respect" must apply in each/every/all cases involving freedom of religion and equal protection under the law.

Or, are you trying to "have your cake and eat it, too... Hmm?

I also think that - if you are - that you should stop cowing to irrational, illogical people. Are worried that they out number the rational and logical ones? How about if, instead of cowing to their delusions, try explaining the Truth to them in a way that they understand. And, if necessary, suggest they take a class which delves into our Constitution, Bill of Rights and Constitutional Amendments.

And, finally, Senator Reid: If you are the person who actually put the above-mentioned statement together... And, if you actually believe that those two distinct ideas... Religious Freedom and Religious Bigotry - two complete polar opposites - can exist simultaneously in the same space/time...

Well, then, perhaps you should look into finding a worthy Democratic candidate as a replacement and then retire to seek medical attention.

The thoughtful and insightful article below explains the issue at hand much more poetically than I am able to at the moment. I'm still somewhat shocked that Mr. Reid said that.



From: God's Politics: a blog by Jim Wallis & friends

By: Julie Clawson

"I’ve become used to seeing images of protests on the news recently. While a few years ago these were displayed as sure signs of anti-American sentiments, they are now a mainstay on the nightly news. Hardly a day goes by without seeing some sign calling Obama a Muslim socialist or demanding that the government not take away Medicare in order to pay for socialized heath care. But it was seriously disturbing to see the images from New York City yesterday of the protest of the Muslim center going in two blocks from the site of Ground Zero. The planned center is being built in an old Burlington Coat Factory building and will include a fitness center, community meeting rooms, and a mosque. Basically it’s the neighborhood YMCA with that weird contemporary church plant meeting in the yoga room on Saturday nights. But it’s Muslim and therefore has drawn out the haters.

The organization Stop Islamization of America, a self-proclaimed human rights group, organized the protest on Sunday. This group’s mission is to ensure the preservation of freedom of speech against Islamic supremacist intimidation and attempts to make the United States compliant with Shari’a [Islamic law]. After reading about this group and seeing some of the photos Samir Selmanovic posted from the event as he stood in solidarity with Muslims (including the one here), I couldn’t help but reflect on the tendency in this country for us to fear and hate the other.

It is an odd balance, American’s strike between forgiveness and hate.

On one hand we become obsessed with stories of extreme forgiveness.

The Amish women who chose to forgive and love the families of the man who killed their children so captured our attention the story was even turned into a movie. We prize such extreme acts of love almost to the point of fetishizing them, and yet when the offenders are too different from us we cling to our hatred.

I remember listening to my grandfather’s tales of World War II and first realizing this strange tension between forgiveness and prejudice. He fought on the German front as a naval officer, he was part of the D-Day invasion, ferried Patton across the Rhine River, and had his best friend blown away in the foxhole next to him. Year later, as a man of German descent himself, he had easily forgiven the Germans for the war and yet still spoke with extreme contempt about the Japanese.

Forgiving those like us is easy; extending mercy to those who are other is where our fear often strangles our compassion.

This fear of the other prevents us from seeing the world clearly.

Our belief in our own rightness clouds how we see the other.

During my time at Wheaton College there was much debate about changing the school’s mascot from that of Crusader. While it was eventually changed to the Wheaton Thunder, many people could not understand why there was any reason to change it at all. They thought it was preposterous that any person (especially Muslims and Jews) would be offended by the image or judge modern day Christians by the past actions of historical Crusaders.

Yet, even in the church we daily judge Muslims by the actions of a few of its members.

So, while we applaud the Amish women for their acts of forgiveness, the fear and hatred sparked by the events of 9/11 still inform the average American’s opinion of Muslims. So to the protesters, the building of a Muslim center and mosque so near the site of Ground Zero is just another act of violence — a threat to American supremacy.

There is no forgiveness of the terrorists and the grudge against them is extended to all Muslims.

I, like many of the Muslims involved, understand the need to tread carefully here. Even in working for peace and reconciliation one has to be aware of how one’s actions might offend people who have been previously hurt. This is why Wheaton eventually did change its mascot, out of a desire to promote love and healing instead of reopening old wounds. But it is pure fear of the other that is sparking some to say just having Muslims near Ground Zero is offensive.

It is heartbreaking knowing that many of the protesters are there claiming to represent Jesus while they scream their message of hate. This isn’t just about protesting political ideas but a demonstration of our bondage to sin. The images of the protest hurt as they mock everything the faith I follow claims to uphold.

As I wait to see how this current drama unfolds, I can’t help but wonder what it will take for American Christians to move from just fetishizing forgiveness to actually letting mercy and compassion for all rule our hearts."

Julie Clawson is the author of Everyday Justice: The Global Impact of Our Daily Choices (IVP 2009). She blogs at and

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