Islamaphobia: A Mosque at Ground Zero
Answers to this question vary, opinions vary and emotionally it seems like a charged issue for many Americans.
Those in favor, like President Obama, cite American religious freedom guaranteed by law. They also note that “Muslim” terrorists are a small minority and most Muslims are peace-loving people who oppose such acts of violence. Our war is not against Islam, they say, it is against terrorists.
But those opposed to the mosque in New York say that Muslims will see it as a trophy of victory for 9-11 in their conquest to take over the world. They often believe that Islam is intrinsically violent and facist and that America is a Christian nation. They make no distinction between the political and religious aspects of the issue, seeing those aspects as combined and united. Or they say they believe in the religious freedom, legally, to build it, but feel the people who want to build it should not.
It is not unlike a question the small community in Walkersville, Maryland faced a few years back– do they allow a Muslim group to build a convention center in their town? A local pastor did not want the Muslim group in the town, citing our country’s constitution and Christian values and heritage. Islam is unAmerican, was his point.
Here’s how I think through three of the points from those opposed. (Disclaimer: I say all of the following as an American and as a Christian).
1) Is Islam intrinsically violent? Opinions differ. Most Muslims would answer that question with a resounding, “No!” Also, it could be claimed that the America government is intrinsically violent– and history might make it hard to argue against such a claim.
2) Is Islam intrinsically unAmerican? True, Islam by nature is designed to be a state religion. So an Islamic government could not hold the ideal of separation of church and state in the same way that the American government has so far. But those opposed to the mosque on the grounds that “America is a Christian nation” obviously do not believe in separation of church and state in the same way the American government has so far either.
To say Islam is unAmerican is apparently ignorant of the fact that many American citizens are Muslim and they, with clear consciences, pledge allegiance to the same Republic, serve in the same military and vote in the same elections as do all other Americans.
America is changing socially. It is becoming less white and less Christian. American no longer means “white” and “Christian.” If some are so upset by this that they will fight a war to keep it from happening, then I would suggest that maybe they are more attached to their race or narrow view of America than to their Christian faith and ethics.
3) Do Muslims want to take over the world? Some do. Some don’t. But they might think, after the invasion of Iraq, that evangelical Christians like George W. Bush want to take over the world. Would the same people who oppose the building of a mosque near Ground Zero in New York also oppose the building of an evagelical Christian church in Baghdad? Both can be taken as a slap in the face to a traumatized nation. Not to mention that some Americans want American democracy to take over the world and use that stance to justify unjustifiably violent acts.
The effect 9/11 has had on peace-loving Muslims is great (the majority of Muslims are peace-loving). They are ashamed that people calling themselves “Muslims” would do such a horrific thing. Many of them tell me of the fear, hurt and anger they feel when judged and shunned in the West just because they are a Muslim. They are scared and upset by what seems to be a growing Islamaphobia in Europe and America. Many won’t travel to America for fear of what might happen to them.
What many don’t understand is the great amount of fear in America after 9-11. They see America as the sole superpower in the world with nothing to fear. It often doesn’t cross their minds just how scared the average American is after 9-11. Yes, a superpower can still be traumatized.
And the average American doesn’t understand the difference between Sunni, Shi’ite, Sufi, Wahabi or Ahmadiyya (or know that some do not consider the others true Muslims)– traumatized thinking equates Muslim with terrorist, period.
Fear seems to be the key issue here, on both sides.
But acting out of fear promotes continued fear and encourages continued ignorance.
The remedy to most fear is education, relation and the will not to act on fear. Let us Americans educate ourselves on Islam, share our lives with more Muslim neighbors and have the willpower, as hard as it is sometimes, not to take action motivated by fear.