Tuesday, August 17, 2010

They Came for Them

First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out--
because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out--
because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out--
because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out--
because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me--
and there was no one left to speak out for me.
- Martin Niemöller

There's a lot of coverage in the media about the Park51controversy - aka "Ground Zero Mosque" about which Sarah Palin, Newt Gringrich and other extremist opinion leaders are buzzing. The building being constructed is neither a mosque nor at Ground Zero. It's not being built atop the rubble; it's an existing building that has been used for interfaith prayers and is being renovated to capture more functions. There are mosques that already exist in lower Manhattan. Here are some pictures of the area and it's definitely not the "hallowed ground" as it's being promoted. As soon as you enter NYC, it's obvious that it's the most multicultural city in the US. You hear different languages and you can see vast diversity in people.

The extremist opinion leaders need "a theme" to spoon feed fear to public. It could be Obama's birth certificate or death panels. It's unfortunate because the people who accept this probably do not know Muslims or New Yorkers. Rather than extinguishing these flames, CNN and other media outlets pour kerosene upon it by highlighting this as a controversy, rather than xenophobia. Bloggers are saying it's not "American" to have mosque built because it will promote violence and jihadism, and it will disrespect the memory of those who died on 9/11. It would be important to remember that people of all religions and races died in those buildings --  Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Catholics, Protestants to name a few. When the buildings fell that day, my thoughts turned to all the folks running those newstands and Dunkin Donuts on the lower level.

I was shocked to hear a caller on the radio say that Muslims would instill sharia law in the US and not follow the Constitution. Why, this is just the first step on that road to craziness! We'll be donning burkas and Taliban will set up shop on Pennsylvania Avenue. After all, our President's name is Hussain and we don't know where his birth certificate is.

If these people had talked to a Muslim in the US, they would see that they want to be recognized as Americans. They're in the US because they believe in the American dream. It's a shame that some Americans don't realize how fortunate they are, but allow themselves to perceive themselves as victims. 

Had the terror attacks been performed by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and the Irish wanted to build an Irish Catholic community center a few blocks from the site, would this be an issue? If a Hindu lunatic conducts an act of terror, should the rest of the Hindu community not be allowed to convene? This is why we have to speak now.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Sorry -- one final comment about Palin:
“If the purpose of this mosque, as we are lead to believe, is to create this tolerant environment, to avoid anything like a 9/11 ever repeating, you have to ask why didn't one of those 100 [existing] mosques already accomplish such a thing,” Palin said.

That's so funny.. I've wondered if she had raised her children with such "traditional strong family values," how did her daughter get pregnant in high school and have a boyfriend who has become become a talk show boy toy? The 'abstinance only' church sermons didn't accomplish such a thing did it? Hmm.


Ameena said...

thanks, ashini!
it's been a frustrating project. here we are, a group of (mostly sufi) muslims actively involved interfaith work, we bought a space with a big footprint and wanted to offer it back to the community. to turn it into a space that could bring those streets back to life, provide a library, classrooms, children's playroom, a gym, a swimming pool, cooking classes, an art gallery...
the problem all started when we offered this (private property, zoned for mixed-use) to the community.
everyone in the neighborhood was thrilled, but once the news got out into the larger world, it turned into an enormous political bargaining chip rather than an act of generosity.
remember, at our sufi mosque, we have rabbis teach us how to build a sukkot house, krishna das teach us kirtans, shakers teach us how to be still, even the archbishop of new york city has come to listen to our friday services and offer his thoughts.
it is a place that lives up to the prophet's saying, "there are as many paths to god as there are souls..."
why would anyone want to destroy something that is such a sincere gesture?

Indigo B. said...

Ameena -
Thanks so much for your post. I didn't realize you were so actively involved with the actual project. It goes to show how tightly we all are connected (or just that all Indian people know each other? ;-)
This sounds like such a great addition for the community, and wish everyone all the best for this. It's unfortunate it's received such negative attention.

J.Doe said...

The opposition in the US to the building of this Islamic center is one of the saddest chapters of American history. The US was founded on freedom of religion and I don't see that here, and that's a big shame.
The Muslim groups should be able to build the study center where they plan to, right in the middle of the World Trade center or on the outside boundaries of the state of NY. It shouldn't matter. It has nothing to do with victims of 9-11 and everything to do with religious rights.
I also wonder if the 911 terrorist were a bunch of Christians would people object to a Christian study center being built a few blocks from ground zero?
P.S. I find anything Sarah Palin says as irrelevant BS

J.Doe said...

P.S. That is a very fitting poem/quote at the beginning of yourpost.

First the Muslims won't be able to build....and then who next?

Indigo B. said...

JDoe - I know! This quote brings chills from the Holocaust, but it represents all the hate and violence being committed around the world.