THE END IS NIGH, PEOPLE. DON’T YOU REALIZE THAT FOR A MONTH NOW, ONE OF OUR MOST SACRED SPACES HAS BEEN VIOLATED BY DECEPTION AND LIES! IT’S TIME TO RALLY!
Yeah, well… that was the response I was expecting today, judging from the uproar about this issue only 14 months ago. Don’t know what I’m talking about? For a month now, the Islamic Community Center at Park 51 has been open! No fanfare, no violence, no mass protests, not even a negative mention on mainstream media. I think that’s pretty awesome.
In summer of 2010 , the so-called “Islamic supremacist mega-mosque at Ground Zero” was all over the American media, with people shouting to anyone who would listen about the “Ground Zero Mosquestrosity.” It was, in the eyes of the loud and obnoxiously ignorant, a “cultural obscenity” that was doling out “a beating, a relentless pounding from the Islamic supremacists and their media stooges.” The space was, according to its opponents, “deliberately provocative, deeply offensive and inhumane” and against “human compassion and common decency.” It would be a “slap in the face”! An attack from the “leftist/Islamic machine”! A “middle finger to America”! (All actual quotes! Take a look, if you dare: http://nomosquesatgroundzero.wordpress.com/)
Amid a sea of misinformation and rhetoric, 68 percent of the American population opposed its construction. As Sarah Palin put it, “It would be an intolerable and tragic mistake to allow such a project sponsored by such an individual to go forward on such hallowed ground.”
Actually, it’s a prayer space within a community center—including a basketball court, a cooking school, a bookstore, and a childcare center. The “besmirching of sacred ground” is built in a former Burlington Coat Factory, close to a gentlemen’s club, a betting facility, several bars and fast-food joints (need proof? http://daryllang.com/blog/4421). It opened on September 21st with a photography exhibit.
And it’s quiet.
I can understand people not wanting to rub salt in a wound, when so many in the US immediately associate Islam with fundamentalism, terrorism, and the attacks on the World Trade Center, Flight 93, and the Pentagon. I agree that the effort of the center’s Imam and developers mismanaged its publicity and community outreach. I agree that the location could be considered questionable because of its proximity to a touchstone for people’s discomfort with and fear of the religion it represents. But I cannot puzzle out how we forgot that some of the victims of September 11th were Muslim, too, and that millions of Americans are peaceful, law-abiding practitioners of that faith. Even more importantly, the idea of taking away the rights of private citizens to do as they like within the bounds of the law, building codes, and on their privately-owned property is beyond my comprehension. I don’t understand this kind of myopic and hypocritical bigotry that justifies smacking a label on 22 percent of the world’s population, calling them all violent practitioners of hate.
That is not what I am witnessing here, in a country which almost 90 % Muslim. There are some things that transcend language, culture, and religion, like the simple human desire to know the as-of-yet unknown. I would rather embrace that than fear-mongering any day.