Tag Archive: Islam


I know I spoke at length about the Cordoba House (the mosque/community center being constructed near Ground Zero,) the other day, but recently both Slate and Salon ran interesting articles on it, so I thought I’d revisit the topic again, though my focus this time will be a little different. One of the posters on the Slate article stated that anyone saying that Islam is a religion of peace is totally misunderstanding its purpose, that it is, at its heart a violent religion intended to bring people under the umbrella of its faith by the sword. I’d like to take a moment and unpack this post, to see what kinds of issues it raises.

First of all, I find it incredibly irritating when people, especially laypersons, take it upon themselves to make grave and potent pronouncements about the nature of a given religion. They often make sweeping statements that are, ostensibly, meant to clear the waters and make it absolutely clear what a particular religion stands for. My question is, who gives them this authority? I’m not saying that clerical folk should have more authority on religious matters than others, but I do think that they often have the sort of training that allows them to wrestle with these questions in a way that most laypeople cannot or do not (hence their positions as laypeople.) Even more importantly, making broad statements about any religion, be it Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, or what have you, is folly, as they are almost all constituted by many different denominations and branches that inter pet things incredibly differently, thus making any generalization an out-right falsehood, and a dangerous one at that.

Second of all, I would like to just point out the foolishness of putting Islam into a contradictory position with Christianity. Yes, that faith has some bloodspots on its rap sheet, but so does Christianity. The Crusades, the Reformation (and the Counter-Reformation,) to say nothing of the conflicts in Northern Ireland and elsewhere between Christians. How many thousands, nay millions, of Christians have been cruelly and brutally murdered by other Christians? One need look no further than the Bible to see examples of violence. Although Christ once said turn the other cheek, he also said that he brought not peace but a sword. Which one are we to believe? Is Christianity a religion of peace or one of war? Should Christians go to war to ensure that everyone falls under their faith? Obviously those in the past have thought so (and not the not-so distant past, either,) and there are still some who do so today. Clearly, Islam is not the only religion whose foundations were splashed with the blood of “innocents.”

My point is, basically, that saying that Islam is a religion based on violence is yet another gross over-statement, designed to make everyone believe that Islam is somehow antithetical to American civilization and culture, which is supposedly so evolved and enlightened. Tell that to the Tea Partiers and the religions fanatics on the Right, who constantly advocate for the oppression of those who don’t fit into their notion of “values” or “holiness.” I’ll close with a brief paraphrase of one of Jesus’ most famous sayings: “Before you remove the splinter from your brother’s eye, remove the log from your own.” Those on the Right would do well to consider that.

I’m sure that most people are aware of the cultural maelstrom that is currently swirling due to the plans to erect a mosque/community center a few blocks away from Ground Zero in New York City. Aside from the fact that it’s still somewhat unclear what the building will actually be (depending on who you read, it could either be a mosque or a community center,) many are claiming that erecting a building devoted to the faith of Islam is an affront to the memories of all of those who died that tragic day in 2001.
I am here to say that no, it is not, and saying that it is exposes the fundamental issues that Americans just can’t bring themselves to face about their religious tolerance (or lack thereof.)
The proposition that it is somehow disrespectful to the victims of 9/11 implies that Islam itself, as a faith and as entire community of believers, is responsible for the attack and its terrible aftermath. This is, to put it mildly, a gross overstatement. Yes, the hijackers were Muslim, but does their crime paint all Muslims with the same brush? In that case, we must brand every abortion clinic bomber as a Christian, and summarily say that Christianity is a religion built on hate and distrust and that no churches should be built alongside such bombing sites, regardless of whether or not that particular denomination supported such an attack. Or we can say that American soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan are “Christian soldiers,” and that we should therefore say that Christianity is responsible. I know those propositions sound ridiculous, but so does the idea that Islam as a whole was somehow responsible for 9/11. Such a gross exaggeration leads to people mistrusting and hating Muslims and Islam, when instead we as Americans should be warm and accepting of people of all faiths. After all, isn’t that what part of being American is all about?
Even more importantly, this whole debate just goes to show how religious tolerance in the good ole United States of America is not what it once was. Most of us pay lip service to the idea of religious toleration, but how many of us truly see people of different faiths as equals? How many of us truly believe that people of other faiths should have the full right to practice that faith without threat of oppression? I dare say not that many.
To make matters worse, conservative gurus like Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin have weighed in on the issue, with the former saying that we should adopt the same type of religious intolerance practiced by the government of Saudi Arabia and some other Middle Eastern nations. Aside from being just plain childish and rather simplistic, such a statement flies in the face of what it means to live in America. We pride ourselves on our ability to accept people of all faiths, and yet there are so many among us, especially those on the Right, that like to use scare tactics to convince the masses that we’re engaged in a cultural war with Islam that threatens to destabilize American and turn us all into Muslims (if we’re defeated, that is.) Such an assumption is foolish and can only lead to oppression and inequality, two unfortunate aspects of society that should be resisted and prevented at all costs.
Fortunately, there are some voices of wisdom in this entire situation. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has already come out in support of the building, and hopefully others will follow his example. If anyone bothered to research the organization responsible for the building, they would learn that they are committed to equality for all persons and to interfaith dialogue. How, I would ask, does that besmirch the memory of those who died on 9/11? If anything, it validates them, and shows just how great a country this can be, if everyone is willing to extendthe hand of friendship, rather than the fist of hate and bigotry.