Mosque and State

When, exactly, in the history of the United States did religious intolerance become a problem?  Since our founding, the country has been based on ideals of tolerance.  Article VI of the Constitution says that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States”; First Amendment states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”  Equality of religion under the law has kind of been bred into the pedigree of America.  This is why I don’t understand — at all, really — the uproar over an Islamic center being constructed in New York.  I’m going to let the GOP do its own talking here:

Ground Zero is hallowed ground to Americans.  Do you think the Muslims would allow a Jewish temple or Christian church to be built in Mecca?

That’s Elliott Maynard, a Republican candidate for Congress in West Virginia. And okay, I don’t think the Saudis would allows construction of a temple or church in Mecca.  But since when do we compare ourselves and our religious tolerance to Saudi Arabia?

I am seriously hard pressed to believe that opposition to the so-called “mosque at Ground Zero” is anything but intolerance, Islamophobia, and a general lack of understanding (and, more worryingly, a lack of desire to understand) Islam.  The fact that these feelings can manifest themselves in America is disheartening, to say the least.  WWJD? (The “J” here, of course, refers to Jefferson.  Or John Adams.  Or James Madison.  Take your pick, really.)

In light of the recent poll results showing that a staggering number of Americans believe Obama is a Muslim, I thought I’d let the GOP do the talking again here, but this time let’s hear from Gen. Colin Powell, quoted from 2008 when he endorsed Obama for president:

And it is permitted to be said such things as, “Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim.”  Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he’s a Christian.  He’s always been a Christian.  But the really right answer is, what if he is?  Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country?  The answer’s no, that’s not America.  Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president?  Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, “He’s a Muslim and he might be associated with  terrorists.”  This is not the way we should be doing it in America.  I feel strongly about this particular point because of a picture I saw in a magazine.  It was a photo essay about troops who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.  And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay was of a mother in Arlington Cemetery, and she had her head on the headstone of her son’s grave.  And as the picture focused in, you could see the writing on the headstone.  And it gave his awards — Purple Heart, Bronze Star — showed that he died in Iraq, gave his date of birth, date of death.  He was 20 years old.  And then, at the very top of the headstone, it didn’t have a Christian cross, it didn’t have the Star of David, it had crescent and a star of the Islamic faith.  And his name was Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, and he was an American.  He was born in New Jersey.  He was 14 years old at the time of 9/11, and he waited until he can go serve his country, and he gave his life. Now, we have got to stop polarizing ourselves in this way.

Amen.

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4 comments

  1. Personally, I have no problem with the mosque being built there. They have a right to the property, and the bigger deal we make about it, the happier they are.

    That said, I don’t think they’d find a gay bar being built next door to be in good taste.

    And that’s sad, really. They claim they just want to build the mosque in order to build dialogue.

    Well, most Muslims hate gays, so imagine the dialogue and fence mending that could come as a result of a gay bar catering exclusively to Muslim men next to a mosque.

  2. Hear Hear!

    Also, to add to Colin Powell’s point that was made so eloquently (and that I’m ever so glad you found and used), Keith Olbermann on the subject:

    “Why did we go into Iraq, again? I don’t mean the real reasons or the naked vengeful blindness that enabled the forging of a non-existant connection between Iraq and 9/11. I mean, the official explanation. To free the world — and especially Iraq’s citizens — of the tyranny of Saddam Hussein. That’s its supporters’ defense of the invasion, to this day. Well, who lives in Iraq? Muslims.

    I hate to reveal this to anybody on the Right who didn’t know this, but when they say Iraq is 65% Shia and 32% Suni you do know that Shia and Suni are both forms of the Muslim religion, right?

    We sacrificed 4,415 of our military personnel in Iraq to save Muslims, and there are thousands still there tonight to protect Muslims, but we don’t want Muslims to open a combination culinary school and prayer space in Manhattan?… This is America, dammit. And in America, when somebody comes for your neighbor, or his Bible, or his Torah, or his Atheists’ Manifesto, or his Koran, you and I do what our fathers did, and our grandmothers did, and our founders did you and speak up.”

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