I hope everyone is doing well. Alright, let’s get to it. There is an issue that is currently impacting our society. This issue is at the root of more than a little controversy. This issue involves people and prejudice. It involves religion and race, ethics and ethnicity. It involves the past, present and future. It involves us. The issue is whether a mosque should be allowed to be constructed in New York City. This would normally be a non issue, but for the proximity of the proposed structure. The mosque is planned to be erected only a few blocks from ground zero. Ground zero. Not long ago, this term was a vague phrase that meant where a bomb had dropped, or where something was targeted. It was always elsewhere. It was always local to the event. It was distant. Now the term is a distinct and focused reference to a tragic event that occurred on 9/11/2001. Or just 9/11, as the remainder of the date is wholly unnecessary. We all know what 9/11 means. We all know the significance. We know the pain. Who can forget? To do that would be unconscionable and irresponsible. It would be disrespectful and numbing. It would be wrong. So what now? Time heals wounds. It dampens pain. It marches us forward.
It has been nearly nine years since the tragedy, and now someone wants to build near the site. The building to be erected is a place of worship. It is a mosque. That is akin to a church, or a temple. It is a place to pray. It is a religious building in function and form. So what’s the problem? Well, here’s the rub. A mosque is a religious building for the worship of those of the Islamic faith, mainly for Muslims. If we remember back, to the tragic event, the deed was carried out by those of the Islamic faith. Probably Muslims. Make the connection? It would be hard not to. Many innocent people were senselessly killed in a horrible way by people of this faith. Many lives were destroyed or irrevocably changed by people of this faith. This country was profoundly changed by people of this faith. Time may heal all wounds, but man can easily reopen them. Reopen them, and pour salt into them. The end result, an injury that is simply unable to heal. Many are insulted that such a venture, as to open a place like this on or near the hallowed site, can even be conceived. It rings wholly unconscionable and irresponsible; disrespectful and numbing. Just plain wrong.
But wait – not so fast. There is another side to this. A side that perhaps is more difficult to hear, much less to listen to. A side that looks past the emotion and anger, and sees an opportunity. A side that not only should be surveyed, but needs to be explored. Let’s look at that side. First of all, let’s look at this from a purely legal standpoint. In this country, this free society, this capitalistic community, the transacting of a business venture is not only legal, it is encouraged. The buying and selling of goods, in a legal manner, is the backbone of this economic civilization. Dry, and droll perhaps, but it needed to be stated.
Now let’s get to a deeper issue – religion. Theirs and ours. Them and us. Everyone, anywhere. One of the cornerstone foundations of this country is our perspective on worship. We hold that one’s religious beliefs and practices are sacred. As a matter of fact, this truth is so pervasive in our nation that the First Amendment actually states that we have freedom of religion. Let’s rewind that – Freedom of Religion. That is one of the founding principles of this great nation. It’s a fundamental right. Whether one is Christian, Jewish, Islamic, or anything else, in this country you have the right to practice your religion. As long as your faith and its observance do not trample on the rights of others, and is not illegal, you may worship as you wish, as do the Jews, the Christians, the Muslims, and so on. So what does that mean here, in this situation? Well let’s continue. To say that those who carried out that tragic deed on 9/11 were religious men, is a travesty. To say that they were devout is insane. To say that they were being true to the teachings and principles of the Islamic and Muslims alike is a lie. Again, a lie. Those men and the ones who aided and abetted them were not followers of the Islamic faith. They were not devout. They were not religious. They were corrupted souls who followed a twisted and perverse path. They were truly godless beings who sought to bring destruction and death in His holy name. T
hey were evil. Some say that to give your life for a cause, as they did, is the ultimate test of courage and mark of bravery. Nonsense. Utter nonsense. It is not the giving of oneself that denotes courage, it is the cause. It is not the sacrifice that signifies bravery, it is the manner in which it is done. And make no mistake, both the cause and the manner of sacrifice are not mutually exclusive. Quite the opposite. They are inveterately linked. Cause and sacrifice, bound. What does it matter if one gives their life for a useless cause? Who is to care if the sacrifice is at the expense of nothing? Or worse, the cause could be entirely cruel, and the sacrifice at the expense of others. There are many who sacrifice of themselves for others on a daily basis. For the good of the family, or community. For the betterment of the children or society. These causes, it can be argued, are just. The sacrifice of time, energy, attention, earnings, and self take courage. Whether rushing in to a burning building, or raising a child; taking back a hijacked airplane, or volunteering with all you can, these are the true causes in the true manners that are the stuff of bibles, torahs, Korans, and the like. Those who were involved in the tragic event, who gave their warped lives, who sacrificed for their twisted beliefs were cowards. Plain and simple. They were small men, who prayed to a small deity. They are the embodiment of hatred and soulless selfishness. They were the absolute contrary to the faith that they were touting. They were everything that the Islamic faith does not teach or prescribe to. They were lost. Evil, perverted, empty, and lost.
So where does that leave us, now? Where are we? The blaming of an entire religion for the actions of a small portion of its so-called members does not sound like the place to be. The denouncing of an entire ethnic group for the misdeeds of a minute cluster of radicals and extremists should not be where we end up. Let’s look at that further. There have always been extremists in every religion, of every faith. Does that mean that we condemn that entire religion and faith because of those who seek to pervert its meaning? People like David Koresh (born Vernon Howell), who was the leader of a sect of Branch Davidians. These were so-called Christians who were an offshoot of the Protestant church. This man, Koresh, actually believed that he was Christ. This man’s actions were responsible for the deaths of numerous “followers” as well as several ATF agents. So does that mean that we denounce the Protestant church and all of its followers? We can get more brutal and violent. We can go back further. What about Nat Turner? He was a deeply spiritual man and a preacher who even baptized himself. He led a slave rebellion that killed men, women, and children. He did this based on visions that he claims to have had from God. So do we use his actions to tarnish faith in general, or even African Americans? How about the actions of organizations like the KKK? A group that touts Christian values on a message of hate, and white supremacy. Is it even conscionable that anyone would relate these hate-mongers with any kind of Christian faith at all? How outrageous that would be. Because of them, are all white people corrupt – even those who marched with King? What about the atrocities of men of the cloth in certain situations with children. Are the faiths and all followers of those religions morally corrupt as well? And yet here we are. Denouncing a religion, defaming a faith due to the actions of a misguided, and hate filled few. Can we with any kind of reason tell the priest, rabbi, or minister that he or she cannot erect a building of worship because their faith is being perverted by a limited few radicals who have missed the message entirely? Can we? Well that is exactly what is happening. We are using the tragic events of 9/11 to foster our mistrust, misunderstanding, and misinterpretation of an entire religion, of a whole faith. It was not the faith that brought down the towers. It was not the religion that damaged the Pentagon. It was not the beliefs or the teachings of Islam that destroyed so many lives that day. It was the work of hateful fools, using fear and terror to carry out their evil deeds.
Another alarming question arises. What are some really saying ‘no’ to? Is it just the faith, or is it also the ethnicity of those who practice it? Can we change from this? How long will it take to look past the face and into the soul of those who do not look like us? Is there strength to do it? When tragedy hits, it’s easy to slip back into the ‘us versus them’ mode. Into the ‘they look, act, sound, and dress differently’ mind frame. Old prejudices die hard, and rise easily. This basic human weakness fuels fires, and destructively divides. But as of yet, this is not the expressed reason as to all the protests and attempts at blockage. So we will table this, and move on – for now.
Have we not learned from the lessons of the past? Whether it was just these few examples, or the long drawn out persecutions of the innocent in the name of God, or for the State, or for the master race. It has to stop. We have to learn to separate the message and those who would follow it from those who seek to distort, spoil, and pervert it. And yet here we are. Debating the moral thing to do. Arguing about the wisdom of it. Forgetting – or more conveniently just choosing to not remembering who we are. Or what we stand for; the foundations on which this country rests. There are many who side with the building of this structure. Many who look to a higher perspective. Many who feel the pain. Who have known the loss. Who are still trying to heal. Who might not understand, but still respect. Who might not embrace the teachings, but still trust the message. This takes courage. To openly denounce the hatred and discontent from those who are crying outrage and insensitivity, takes courage. To take a step towards working together takes sacrifice. To stand firm in the face of the passionate ones who believe that a mosque in the vicinity of ground zero is an affront, takes sacrifice. To grow past the blanket of us versus them takes courage and sacrifice. This is an opportunity – the chance to heal together, to build a stronger foundation, to learn from each other. Insensitive, no. Just plain humane.