I haven’t published anything this week, though not for lack of trying. My head is filled with too many thoughts. And a good number of those are going into my twice weekly journals for Spiritual Formation. But I want to write. I have things to work out, and the process of writing helps me do that. I have things to say in support or response to others. I want to come out in favor of the so-called Ground Zero Mosque. I want to tell my friend Jake that people aren’t inherently bad and sinful (so there!) even if we are a little broken, we’re also good and wise and full of buddhanature. I want to innumerate all the reasons why Glen Beck is either demented or a better actor than Stephen Colbert and Sean Connery combined (but that could take years). But I haven’t the time or mental energy to do the research to give any of them a proper treatment. There is too much and I am too little. Some things, I guess I just have to let go.
But only some things. So I’ll just say this about the first topic: We ought to build a mosque at Ground Zero. By that I mean a mosque and by that I mean Ground Zero. I do not mean an Islamic cultural center two blocks away in an old Burlington Coat Factory, as is currently being proposed and misnamed the "Ground Zero mosque."
When I first learned of the so-called “Ground Zero mosque,” I was delighted. I thought “What a wonderful idea to demonstrate the true spirit of American than by embracing the religion that was perverted in order to commit atrocities. What a great way to uphold freedom of religion and create a spirit of inclusion and forgiveness. I mean, Christians are all about forgiveness, right? And America is all about freedom of religion, right? And we’re a pluralist country built on the backs of immigrants, right? Wouldn’t it be lovely if we included some kind of chapel for all the faiths, so that as people visit the memorial and remember the victims, who accounted for numerous religions including Islam, they could seek solace in their own tradition.”
Then, as the newscaster went on about this planned “mosque,” I was stupid enough to listen. I was terribly discouraged by the fear mongering and criticism and intolerance I heard. Sarah Palin contended that none of the hundred mosques already in New York failed to prevent September 11th. I wasn’t aware any of the hijackers attended a New York mosque. (Should we outlaw churches in Oklahoma because they failed to stop Timothy McVeigh?) Another talking head asserted we shouldn’t allow mosques in the United States because one can’t build a Christian church in some Muslim countries. I wasn’t aware we were taking our cues for how a free nation should behave from repressive, totalitarianism regimes. People say it’s disrespectful to the victims’ families. What about the Muslim victims who were working in the Twin Towers that day or on the airplanes? (And no, I’m not talking about the hijackers.)
Finally, one gentleman pointed to the truth of the situation, that this isn’t about Islam or honoring the dead. This is about the upcoming election. The announcement regarding the Islamic culture center was made a long time ago, over a year, I believe, and no one made a fuss. It’s only as the November election has loomed that Republicans and Tea Partiers, lacking any concrete policy recommendations of their own, have latched onto anything to criticize,. What better than something that they can link to the most traumatic event in the living memory of our nation?
They have the right to protest and speak their minds, however disgusting. Their right to protest the culture center is guaranteed by the very same document that guarantees the right of the Islamic culture center to exist. To deny a constitutionally protected right is to call into question the entire edifice of constitutional law which also protects them. They seem not to notice.
A number of responsible voices, such as Mayor Bloomberg and President Obama, can also be heard, but even they have been cautious is their “support,” citing constitutionally guaranteed legal rights rather than the more ambiguous moral questions of right and wrong. I can be less hesitant thanks to my utter lack of celebrity. I support the culture center and would suggest the inclusion of a true mosque within the Ground Zero memorial itself as a concrete example of compassion, forgiveness, understanding, inclusion, and respect. The memorial should include worship spaces for as many world religions as we can manage. Religion is great solace to the grieving.
That is all I shall say for now. I am sorry it is not as well thought out as I had hoped, and without sources cited. I would like to have linked readers to some of the more articulate responses to this disturbing argument. They are out there. I hope you go find them.
In the future, I shall begin posting my twice weekly journals. This will be something of a spiritual journey as my professor questions us about the meaning of our “faith,” a word I have commonly eschewed. It is intended to culminate in a spiritual autobiography. Even I know not how this story is going to end. I look forward to finding out.
In the meantime, support the “mosque,” excuse my brusqueness, and maybe give a moment to contemplate your own spiritual autobiography.