The US Right has got itself into a lather; the forces of ignorance have declared that a community centre in downtown Manhattan that is a couple of blocks away (approximately 2km in fact) is a hotbed of Islamic extremism. They also claim that the building of this ‘mosque’ is an insult to the memories of those who died in the collapse of the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001. Of course it would wrong to suggest that all right-leaning Americans are as ill-informed and as ignorant as those people who currently call themselves ‘teabaggers’. Even Michael Bloomberg, the Republican mayor of New York City has spoken in defence of the building, formerly named Cordoba House, now called Park51. This is not a right/left issue, it is an fight between the forces of ignorance and those of reason and tolerance.
Let’s have a look at some of the things said about the building itself.
1. It is often called the ‘Ground Zero Mosque’ but is in fact 2 blocks away.
2. It is not a mosque but a community centre that has a prayer space inside it.
3. The imam at the centre of this, is a man called Abdul Rauf has been accused of “not condemning terrorists”. This is not true. In an interview in the New York Daily News, Rauf said, “We condemn terrorists. We recognize it exists in our faith, but we are committed to eradicate it”, he added “”We want to rebuild this community. This is about moderate Muslims who intend to be and want to be part of the solution.” This article is even more explicit.
4. Right-wing commentators and demagogues like Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin have repeated the lie that this ‘mosque’ will be used to ‘train terrorists’. Rauf is a Sufi and as such has attracted the ire of more fundamentalist groups. Sufism is a mystical branch of Islam that is concerned, among other things, with peace.
Here Limbaugh gives succour to the lie that Barack Obama is a Muslim because he appeared to support the idea. Funnily enough, Limbaugh hasn’t dared to take a swipe at Bloomberg.
For many Americans it is easier to follow the crowd and to consume their thoughts and ideas from a loudmouth opinion-maker than to engage in critical thinking. I am currently involved in a discussion with one such person who has repeated a number of fallacious arguments about Islam; that it is unique for its honour killings, misogyny and so on. When it is pointed out that these things happen in other cultures and religions, the other person simply repeats the same lies, only louder – just like an English-speaker abroad who thinks they can get their point across to a non-English speaker by shouting at them. By the way, the same person tried to claim that the LTTE or Tamil Tigers were a Muslim group. When I pointed out this obvious gap in his knowledge, he chucked back “MILF” which means “Mother I’d Like to F*ck”. Cute but no cigar….
I found this interesting blog from Julian Kossoff in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph who says that most of New York’s Jews have no problems with the building of Park51. If America’s Jews can be tolerant, what’s the problem with America’s so-called Christians?