…but What is our Goal? (concerning the Ground Zero Mosque)


I think the reason that my reaction was mild, when I first heard of the proposed Ground Zero mosque, was that it didn’t compute. I was probably in a kind of shock. On a deeper level, sure, I got it – the bizarre nature of such a possibility – but not front & center. Now, this is a ‘front & center’ issue.

I understand that many in America are, without a doubt, against this travesty. How could any true patriot not be? The more one thinks about it, and learns facts & details, the more opposed to the project one should become. Right? Or not…? I have to admit, my first conscious flickering of thought was of another sort. I briefly wondered if the idea was to somehow promote a side-by-side harmony, replace great suffering with…well, that trend of thought was soon replaced with others. It’s just that, as a Christian, I first considered the possibility of proximity eventually engendering forgiveness. Even if the proximity was a forced one. Ultimately, could healing through acceptance prevail ?

Perhaps this theory is not so far off the mark, however – Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean, though he has called the intended building “a real affront to people who lost their lives” in the Twin Towers attack and is opposed to the Ground Zero location, writes: “This is about ending the poisonous atmosphere engendered by fear and hate, and in order to do that there has to be genuine listening, hearing and willingness to compromise on both sides.”

“…the builders of the proposed Islamic Center say they want to help heal the nation and there is a preponderance of evidence that that is true, based not least on the fact that the last administration viewed the leadership of this group as a pro-American bridge to the Muslim world.” (Salon) (Now, I have not looked into this ‘preponderance of evidence’, so I can’t cite specifics.)

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the Muslim cleric leading this initiative, turns out to have actively assisted the FBI’s counter-terrorism efforts in 2003. Surprised? Me, too…Walter Isaacson, head of the Aspen Institute, where Imam Rauf has worked to promote religious tolerance, says of him: “He has consistently denounced radical Islam and terrorism, and promoted a moderate and tolerant Islam.” (Huffington Post) This Post article claims that those who really know the Imam consider the extremist-type labels being applied to him today as ’unhinged from reality’. During an October, 2001 interview, he told Katie Couric, “We have to be very much more vocal about protecting human rights and planting the seeds of democratic regimes throughout the Arab and Muslim world.”

Maybe he really isn’t the bad guy so many have him cut out to be…?

I’ve spent some time listening to replays of Jay Sekulow’s recent radio broadcasts concerning this mosque. He, too, mentioned this idea of healing, but he mentioned it only to refute it, explaining that it has been a Muslim tradition, historically, to erect mosques on conquered territory. His take on this venture puts it in the category of a way to gain territory & control, not to promote or foster anything other than that. In fact, even the name ascribed to the initiative, the Cordoba House, can be seen as having ominous significance. The Great Mosque of Cordoba had originally been a church located in Cordoba, Spain, known as the Christian Visigothic church of St. Vincent’s. Invaded by an army of Berber Northwest Africans recently converted to Islam, the Visigothic kingdom came under Muslim control. The church was made into a mosque (Wikipedia) As Muslim domination increased, so did the presence of their palaces & mosques, visible symbols of power.

(Note: this mosque eventually was reclaimed by the Spanish and today stands as the ‘Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption’.)
Still, it’s easy to understand how a mosque to be constructed at Ground Zero has been labeled by some as a symbol of victory, power or conquest. At an earlier more suspicious, spiteful moment my thought had been, they couldn’t kill the American spirit but they want to pretend they did…rub their attitudes in our face, taunt us…continue to try & break America down…

But now, after some investigation into the man behind the mosque initiative, I’m not so sure. Despite allegations of nefarious connections to terrorist funding, and refusal to apply the ’terrorist’ label to some…I’m not so sure. I don’t want to seem, or be, naïve but America may have to go deep & long on this one…

“The national debate about building a mosque near Ground Zero in New York is less about our freedom of religion than about the common sense and uncommon courtesy sometimes required to come together as Americans.” – Karen Hughes, former Undersecretary of State and adviser to President George W. Bush, begins an excellent article about NOT putting up this mosque at the Ground Zero location with this statement. She tells us that a Muslim friend of hers has said that she understands how seeing a Muslim mosque erected so close to the scene of such tragedy would be ‘too much’ for those who lost loved ones that awful day. “That’s what we need in this debate-” writes Ms. Hughes ,” more understanding and respect for other points of view.”

Amen.

Yet…Eric Deggans, media critic for St. Petersburg Times, wonders: “A mosque within sight of the former World Trade Center site, especially if it is dedicated to peace, would seem an important antidote to that {terrorist}*strategy; a pointed punch in the face to those who bet on Americans’ worst instincts.” (Huffington Post)

*[{of turning} moderate Muslims against the West; to show them that we cannot be trusted to treat them fairly or consider their freedoms.] Thus, of course, creating from their ensuing resentment & dissatisfaction a greater pool of possible jihadist recruits…

Which way should we…will we…go? Do we know for sure that Imam Rauf is blameless as regards terrorist ties & intentions? Risk needs to be taken to believe that, but it seems not such a stretch…Would yielding, willingly, and allowing the mosque to be built as proposed go a long way towards fruitful healing, on both sides – though it may take awhile?

Or do we paint a different scenario here, and pose this question: Imam Rauf & Daisy Khan, if your true intention is promoting peace and healing, then are you willing to spare many, many still-wounded Americans the pain and distress of rubbing salt in those wounds? “We’re not telling them not to practice their religion. … It’s about location, location, location,” he said, asking why the mosque couldn’t be built farther away from the land that he still considers a cemetery. “It’s disrespectful. You wouldn’t put a Japanese cultural center at Pearl Harbor.” – former NYC Fire Dept. deputy chief who lost a son on 9/11 (ABC News)

Can you consider re-locating your mosque?

******

Yes, I’ve put my signature on a couple online petitions to stop it, and have posted, at the very top of my blog, against the Ground Zero mosque. But now, I am not so sure. The price to be paid, yet again, by the families of the near three thousand Americans who died that day, would be high. Maybe too high…I can’t imagine it, I lost no one on 9/11 – but if real and true healing could grow out of this, the loss of the grip of fear and perhaps hatred on our lives & souls would be the ultimate victory over terrorism. Here, at least, it will have lost its power. And that would be an amazing start. That which they planned for evil, perhaps God meant for good – perhaps the seed of the solution was, all along, in the crisis itself.

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