America, Mosques and Ground Zero: A Symbol of What and for Whom

August 3rd, 2010 § 7 comments § permalink

Amber,

I’m going to take us away from gender for a bit – I’m sure we’ll return to the topic. Today, I read an article at Slate (shout out to Anaka – thanks!) about the recent controversy over a plan to build a mosque and community center near Ground Zero in NY. I’d heard of this fight before, but here was a collection of quotes from Republican and religious leaders declaring their opposition to this project. A sampling:

“To build a mosque at Ground Zero is a stab in the heart of the families of the innocent victims of those horrific attacks.” – Sarah Palin

“There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia.” – Newt Gingrich

“It is simply grotesque to erect a mosque at the site of the most visible and powerful symbol of the horrible consequences of radical Islamist ideology.” – Newt Gingrich

“Even though the vast majority of Muslims reject that ideology and condemned their actions on Sept. 11, 2001, it still remains a fact that the people who perpetrated the 9/11 attack were Muslims and proclaimed they were doing what they were doing in the name of Islam. Given that fact, I believe that it is inappropriate for a mosque to be at Ground Zero.” – Dr. Richard Land

The same leaders who tout America’s superiority, due to its freedom and democracy, are the same who demand restrictions on fellow Americans’ freedom. Because let’s not be mistaken, this mosque and community center is for Americans. Islam is in America. It is not foreign. It is not other. It is American.

But that is not the narrative we wish to create, that is not the story we tell, that is not the America we have constructed. When Palin says it would be a stab in the heart of victims’ families, I wonder if she has considered the families of those who died and who are Muslim? Or are they not her “real” America?

And is Gingrich honestly suggesting that we mirror the actions of oppressive countries? That the decisions we make and the causes we support should be based on the actions of foreign countries and not the needs of our citizens? Because, again, this is an American mosque and community center.  A mosque and community center would be a powerful symbol of peace if erected at the site of one of the most powerful symbols of the “consequences of radical Islamic philosophy.”

I remember standing at the top of Cape Coast Castle, in its Church, staring at a verse from the Psalms, “For the Lord has chosen Zion, he has desired it for his dwelling.” Moments before I stood in dungeons where enslaved Africans were held. A dungeon below a church. A symbol of evil.

It is not a symbol of my faith. It is a symbol of my faith corrupted, a symbol of inhumanity covering its sins with “righteousness.”

Should no church be near sites such as these?

If America claims to be democratic and free, New York City will allow the building of a mosque near Ground Zero. We will not speak of Muslims as foreigners, as only perpetrators and not victims, but as Americans seeking to build a place of worship and community, to contribute their own narrative.  

But 54 percent of Americans do no believe a mosque should be built.

America’s values are its greatest asset and its biggest lie.

And its civil religion – honoring a god that is American* patriotic** – is its own church atop a dungeon – masking the ugliness below. But that may be another topic.






* Who is American in that civil religion narrative?
** And what is patriotic?

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