Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

To Mosque, Or Not To Mosque

This, from the leadership of the New England Conference of the United Methodist Church, one of whose congregations is my home church and also where I do my “church-gigging”.  Makes sense to me:

“Statement from the Anti-Racism Steering Committee: It’s Not about the Mosque”

“We who are the members of the New England Conference Anti-Racism Steering Committee have watched the on-going arguments about the location of an Islamic Community Center in lower Manhattan with anxiety and disgust.  The Community Center, known as Cordoba House (or Park 51), will also incorporate a Mosque.

“If the issue were truly the right of Islamic leaders to erect a Mosque, there would be no debate. The Constitution of the United States is manifestly clear that any religious group has that right, subject to the zoning laws of the local community. These matters have already been settled by the locality: New York City. United Methodists have long upheld these rights as demonstrated in the Social Principles of the Church: ‘The rights and privileges a society bestows upon or withholds from those who comprise it indicate the relative esteem in which that society holds particular persons and groups of persons. We affirm all persons as equally valuable in the sight of God. We therefore work toward societies in which each person’s value is recognized, maintained, and strengthened.’

“‘We urge policies and practices that ensure the right of every religious group to exercise its faith free from legal, political, or economic restrictions. We condemn all overt and covert forms of religious intolerance, being especially sensitive to their expression in media stereotyping.’ [Paragraph 162, Social Principles]

However, demagogues and irresponsible political leaders have chosen to inflame passions and attempt to deny US citizens their right to freedom of religion. Specious arguments have been raised, to the effect that ‘Muslims ought to be sensitive to the losses suffered on 9/11 and not place a Mosque in such close proximity to Ground Zero’. How far away is too close? Objectors also oppose Mosques in other cities, such as in Boston a few years ago and more recently in Murfreesboro, Tenn. where violence accompanied the debate. Too close to Ground Zero perhaps? Anyone who knows New York City understands that two blocks is further away in lived urban space than two villages in a rural area.

Some, but only some, relatives of the victims of the Twin Towers crime have objected, ignoring the reality that Muslims also died in the attack. The 9/11 attacks were crimes against humanity, not against a religious orientation. The misrepresentation that the 9/11 attacks were religiously motivated leads to allegations that Islam is intrinsically more violent than Christianity or Judaism. That is not the experience of the people of Iraq or Afghanistan. Moreover, the Crusades are still a vital memory for many in the Middle East and the Iberian Peninsula.

The reality is that adherents of all religions have violated the tenets of their faith with violent and aggressive acts, rationalizing that they must be justified because ‘God is on our side’. If non-violence were a requirement for the location of a place of worship, there would be few of any kind. Christians in particular have been quick to demand the right to evangelize all over the world, demanding equal treatment, sometimes blithely trampling on the religious sensitivities of others. This is not the case in this instance: Cordoba House Community Center will serve a community already established and part of our society. That is, perhaps, what the demagogues and political pundits most hate and fear: that we are now a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-religious society. This is something to be celebrated, not condemned.

“We who decry racism in all its manifestations rejoice that at long last the promise of the Constitution, as amended, is becoming fully realized, so that all are truly equal and accorded the same freedoms and responsibilities. It is not as George Orwell said in Animal Farm, ‘all…are created equal, but some are more equal than others.’ We recognize and support the placement of Cordoba House Community Center and Mosque as a matter of legal right and simple justice, in accordance with our Christian faith, and welcome the opportunities that we as persons of faith have to meet and work with other persons of faith, our brothers and sisters.”

On top of which, within the last couple of days, it has been reported that there actually were at least a couple of mosques housed in the World Trade Center complex, one of which was actually in the South Tower.  And there’s a mosque much closer to “Ground Zero” than the location everyone’s ranting and raving about, which has been in business since the early 1970s.

So I’d love to ask some of these right-of-center commentators: do you know any Islamic people personally?  Have you even ever met one?  I have.  Guess what?  Oh my goodness.  He’s a human being like the rest of us.

One problem is fear.  The remedy for fear is knowledge.  The other problem is people who feel they have something to gain from spreading fear.  The remedy for that is … asking them politely to knock it off; it diminishes all of us.

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September 15, 2010 - Posted by | civil rights, SUMC

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