Saturday, October 2, 2010

American Muslims

I was trying to stay out of the controversy surrounding the construction of a mosque near the former World Trade Center site.  I was trying to stay away from that discussion because I'm certainly not religious, and really don't have any business being for or against construction of any religious house of worship.  I did a good job of staying out of the debate.  Today I am breaking my silence.

The reason I am speaking out is because I just saw the ABC News episode of 20/20 from last night discussing the truths and misconceptions about Muslims and Islam.  I realized that these people and atheists have something in common:  We are both feared and discriminated against for our beliefs (or lack thereof).  Something else touched me:  At one point in the program, there even was the revelation that Muslim belief is that all people should be united together, including atheists.  When I heard what the people on the program were saying, I saw sincerity.  I then realized how bigoted a large portion of the American population has become.  It is no different than it was when I was in high school -- If you're different, you're worthy of ridicule and people are to fear and loathe you.

Such as the case with the mosque at the so-called "ground zero" site.  First and foremost, it is not on the site of the former World Trade Center.  How close is too close?  Why does it matter?  The only people who are concerned about things being close to their "shrines" are, well, Christians.  Timothy McVeigh is Christian.  Should we prohibit a church from being built near the site of the Oklahoma City bombing because a Christian performed that act?  Oh, wait.  There is a church right next to that site.  Were they involved?  Should we be suspicious of Christians in Oklahoma City because they may be potential terrorists?  Of course not.  In reality, McVeigh's motivations were political, not religious, even if he were to say was his actions were in the name of some deity.  Same for those people who orchestrated the attacks on the World Trade Center and the U.S. Pentagon buildings on September 11, 2001.  They were not representative of the Muslim faith, but of an extremist group with a beef against the United States that used a radical interpretation of the Islamic faith to justify their actions.  These people are no more representative of Islam than McVeigh is representative of Christianity (although sometimes I do wonder about what some Christians are trying to legislate...).

The second important distinction about what is being proposed by the Muslim community is the purpose of their structure.  They have been holding religious services in that building for a while now.  It already is a mosque.  The controversy is over a Muslim community center with recreational facilities.  You know, like a YMCA.  In case you didn't know, YMCA means Young Men's Christian Association...it isn't just a song by The Village People.  In reality, the "Y" is the same kind of thing that the Muslim people plan to build on that site.  It's not a mosque, because the mosque is already there.  That's right Pamela Geller, you ignorant bigoted bitch.  Since a principle tenet of Islam is to help the poor, as with Christianity, and effectively to help thy neighbor, the community center is open to anyone.  The only problem here, really, is that the people who are against the center being built will have a problem sitting next to someone who is Muslim.  That's bigotry folks.

I'm not saying I have any belief in Islam or am a closet Muslim.  I'm an atheist...or as I like to say, a "free thinker."  I like the latter because it describes my belief system - I am willing to listen to what people say, and then make a decision based on my ability to sort through the details and think about them.  I don't believe in blind faith.  I have been saying from the very beginning that this "war on terror" is really a war against a specific group of radical extremists who are against our meddling in a culture that isn't ours.  It is a political war, fueled by hate, and justified by extremist religious belief.  To further assert my disagreement with Pamela Geller, Muslims in the United States, even if they were trying to spread their belief system, are no different than a Christian mission going to some other country giving aid and spreading "the word."  If you ask me, Pamela Geller is an extremist and a terrorist and should be put in jail.  Look at the damage she has already done.

Prior to this whole mosque debate America was in debate over the Latino (Hispanic) community and how we should be "tolerant" of those different from us.  There was (and still is) debate over what constitutes illegal immigration from Mexico and whether we should give leniency to those who have illegally come to America and are now living "productive" lives.  In return, a vocal group of these people have forced their own culture and language down our throats and continue to assert how their culture doesn't matter to us.  It doesn't matter to me.  This is America.  We have a culture.  Embrace it, add to it, help to refine it, make it better, but don't shove your own beliefs and language down my throat.  I bet that most Mexican immigrants ultimately feel this way, but look at how a vocal group of people with an inferiority complex can shake-up things and cause a chasm between people.  We don't need more polarization.  If this country is going to succeed at being United, then we need to come together as Americans and show the world that our way is better.  Americans are Christians, Muslim, Jewish, atheist, Buddhist, Hindu, and so on.  We're white, black, and brown.   We're men and women, gay and straight.  All of us should be afforded the freedom to live here peacefully and united as Americans so long as we follow the laws of this country.  The minute we discriminate against a group because they're of a different ethnicity, religion, or sex, then we undermine what America is about.

The people who destroyed the World Trade Center do not agree with our culture, are against our economic and political system, and feel that we need to be punished for our beliefs.  If we start wrongly holding a specific religious group responsible for that action, we are guilty of the same injustice as those who performed those horrific acts.  In fact, because we claim to profess otherwise, we may even be worse.

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