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

August 3rd, 2010 § 7 comments


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?

§ 7 Responses to America, Mosques and Ground Zero: A Symbol of What and for Whom"

  • tometome says:

    you're so on point with this!

  • Liz says:

    Thanks! I was working hard to get my thoughts together…they were quite numerous. =)

  • Laura says:

    As a NYer, I tend to resent non-NY politicians telling my city what to do, how to feel, etc. I know 9/11 happened to the US, but “ground zero”, the Twin Towers… they belong to NYC, and NYC isn't about hate.

  • Liz says:

    Thanks for the links! Good updates. Bloomberg's speech is awesome.

    Interesting comment too that “ground zero” belongs to NYC – that goes directly to the question of whose symbol? And great that Bloomberg comments on the diversity of New Yorkers – in the face of opposition which would narrow who belongs to the city.

  • JERKFISH! says:

    I was reading a discussion about the issue a few weeks back and this was my favorite comment: (I've toned down the language)

    “This is New York.
    There are Mosques, Temples, Synagogues, and houses of worship of all variety on every block. Nobody cares.

    This is a BS wedge issue created by people who don't live here, don't like it here, and probably couldn't cut it here.

    New York celebrates diversity in ways that few cities in the world do.

    Take your race baiting, cynical, BS issues back to Wasilla or Montana where they belong.”

    I have to agree with Laura as well. While 9/11 was a tragic event that effected the entire country, and while the decisions made after 9-11 will always probably be different than what they'd be before the tragedy, the actually location is New York.

    That said, this should be a decision made by New Yorkers and not these politicians who wouldn't be effected by it on a practical level.

  • Anonymous says:

    Wow… amazing. I'm ashamed of the indifference I had to the topic before reading this post. Thanks for sharing this.

  • Jess says:

    Love it Love it! I really loved the reference to the slave dungeons in Ghana. I visited last year and seeing the church on top of the dungeon was so stirring. Excellent comparison.

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