I didn’t intend this to be a political blog, but sometimes I just need to vent. The controversy of the week is whether a group of Muslims should be allowed to build a community center, which will include a mosque, a few blocks from Ground Zero in New York City. Supporters including Mayor Bloomburg and President Obama suggest that all religious groups have equal rights and should be allowed to build a house of worship anywhere that local zoning laws permit. Detractors suggest that a Muslim house of worship being built so close to the scene of the deaths of 3000 people at the hands of Muslim extremists is at least in poor taste and at worst a sign of victory for the terrorists.
I don’t live in NYC, but I’m familiar with the area around Ground Zero. I suggest that a new community center is probably one of the better things that could happen to that neighbourhood. As for respect for the 3000 dead, well, where do you draw the line? The proposed community center would be located in a privately-owned building about three blocks from where the twin towers stood; it’s not as if the mosque will be on the actual WTC site, or integrated into the memorial.
What else lies within those same three blocks? There’s lots of office buildings, apartments, retail stores – and probably also garbage in the streets, stinking gutters, honking taxis, exhaust fumes, unsavory individuals and businesses, etc, etc. Does everything within three blocks of Ground Zero have to honor the memories of the victims? And why is the line drawn at three blocks? How about four blocks, five, ten, or twenty? How about the entire island of Manhattan? Aren’t there other things in Manhattan that already detract from the memory and honor of the 3000 that died at the hands of terrorists? Where’s the closest sex club or XXX video store or gay bar or anything else that may offend some conservatives? Certainly you don’t have to go very far. Are those things really more acceptable than a house of worship for a particular denomination? And who exactly is being offended? Aren’t there also things that may offend some conservative Jews or — gasp — Muslims?
In prior posts I’ve pointed out my disappointment in the church I grew up in and religion in general. I don’t know that religion is necessary, and organized religion can do and has done a lot of harm to society. On the other hand, I recognize that many people believe, and that organized religion can be a huge part of their lives. While I want to be left out of their belief system, and don’t want them imposing their beliefs, morals, or values on me, I respect their right to believe and worship how they see fit. All denominations, as our Founding Fathers have said, should be treated equally. If a Christian church can be located within three (or five or ten) blocks of Ground Zero, then why can’t a Muslim mosque?
I do share with some conservatives, however, a fear that some mosques are used for preaching jihad and hatred against the United States. I also fear an extremist Muslim agenda of imposing Sharia law –just as I also fear certain extremist Christian agendas of imposing their morals on me in the form of laws or the dumbing down of education in teaching religion-based creationism in our public schools. I fail to see the difference. Extremism in any form and from any source is wrong, whether it is of Christian or Muslim origin.