Saturday, August 28, 2010

Mosque at Ground Zero?: It Really is Hard--And Different

I have been spending some time lately talking to people about the mosque and Ground Zero in New York City.

It is an explosive issue--and I have been trying to wrap my head around the explosive nature of this issue.

It really is hard and it is a very different situation for our American culture to face.

In the past, we have fought wars against nations or states or groups (such as the Barbary Pirates). These conflicts were not religious, but rather ideology based conflicts which allowed for the clear identification of the "enemy" from the American "good-guys."

The problem we have right now is that the lines--ideology separate from religion, have blurred. Despite the official position which says that the War on Terror is not a war on Islam, it is very hard for many of us to separate the two entities since the Terrorists themselves keep calling the war a Jihad--or struggle. Some, incorrectly, translate Jihad as Holy War--which further complicates our understanding of the problem.
The only thing that seems to unite the terrorist groups--whether Iran, Iraq, or Afghanistan is Islam. When we are identified with terms such as Great Satan--it is hard, if not impossible, to separate our the religious from the secular context. And the continued use of the Jihad imagery changes the struggle from a ideological one to a religious one in our eyes.

Let me repeat this, the single unifying factor of the terrorist groups is religion and that religion is Islam. Through the filter of my eyes--it certainly has the appearances of a Holy War--Islam versus the secular United States and for that matter all of the non-Islam embracing countries and societies of the world. It may even be the Middle Ages all over again.

Anyone who maintains the Unites States is a Christian country is wrong! They are mis-informed and they do not understand the basics of U.S. history, nor have they read the Constitution of the United States.

And this is the root of why it is hard to understand the complexities of thought associated with the peace loving, American citizen, Islamic believers wanting to erect a house of worship near ground zero and the visceral reaction that many Americans have to it. They are American citizens.

Most Americans do not understand who we SAY we are, AND the Islamic Americans who want to put a mosque near ground zero do not recognize that most of us cannot separate Islam from the terrorists who attacked the United States on September 11, 2001.

Both sides are at the same time right and wrong.

The Islamic community has the right, granted to them under the Constitution, to worship as they please, where they please--in accordance with the laws of the land. But it really demonstrates a lack of sensitivity to place a mosque so close to a place many of us consider to be sacred soil.

And we Americans--have the right, granted to us under the Constitution, to be vocal and to express our feelings about the placement of a mosque so near sacred ground; but at the end of the day we have an obligation under the laws of the land to allow the construction and not to impede it.

We do not have to like it--but we do have to allow it.

We are a complex society. A society of exceptions and inclusions. But we are engaged in a war which is stretching our ability to keep or belief system in a narrow box.

It is hard and it is different and it pushes us to fully reconcile what we believe about who we, Americans, truly are.

Do we really believe the words on the Statue of Liberty--
America was likened to the visions in the Bible as "the land flowing with milk and honey." A land where everyone's life has meaning and we believe in "unalienable rights."
We either believe this--or we become intolerant, the same as those who wage war against us and desire that we slip out of existence.








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