Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Mosque near Ground Zero? How — American

   The Internet thread contained that familiar aroma of pasture patties. Did you know, it said, that a mosque was going up at the very spot of the 9/11 attacks?

   Well, not exactly. This was just the first of a string of anti-Muslim, anti-Barack (Hussein) Obama fallacies, or at least just enough fact mixed with innuendo to beat truth into paste.

   Did you realize, it said, that, "this country (founded as a Christian nation) can't have our national day of prayer," but the White House sponsored a Muslim Day of Prayer last September in the nation's capital?

   Where to start?

   Muslim day of prayer: Happened. White House had nothing to do with it — except that the organizer had been so heartened by President Obama's entreaties to Muslims and Muslim nations that he organized an event in Washington "because we love America." Guess what? Thousands of Muslims showed to express that sentiment.

   National Day of Prayer: Geeze, folks. It went on as it has for generations. Obama participated by issuing a proclamation, though talk radio's myna birds said he shot a hole its heart — and the whole of religiosity in America — by not having a public prayer service in the East Room, a la George W. Bush.

   Why is it that people believe America's faith in God to be so fragile that it needs a government stamp on it, like bananas or pork cutlets? And anyway, isn't government "the problem"?

    Back to that thread about Islam and that "mosque at Ground Zero": False. Two blocks away from where the twin towers once stood is close, yes, but — it's a big city. What else is two blocks from Ground Zero? Souvenir shops? Brokerage firms? Hot dog stands?

     The Islamic center is endorsed by a long list of officials, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and —  wait.

    What the heck is the issue here? Has Islam been outlawed? Have we new permitting obligations in a nation that previously forbade laws respecting the free exercise of religion?

    The people screaming last week at the hearing of a Manhattan board, which then widely endorsed the Islamic center, really should hear themselves.

     Few slurs are uglier than to associate other believers with the sins of a few. A cadre of Islamic militants flew planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Fact. That it reflects on the peaceful practices of Muslims at home and around the world is as ugly a statement as one can make — every bit as ugly as blaming the whole of Christianity for the Ku Klux Klan and the Crusades.

      The real point to make about all this folderol is that what these Americans are saying about Muslim Americans is as anti-American as it gets.

       How many immigrant success stories do Americans need to grasp the fact that diversity is one of this nation's greatest strengths, not to mention its defining characteristic?

       Obama makes conciliatory gestures toward Islam. This is wrong? Manhattan makes room for an Islamic center. This is a "slap in the face" for the 9/11 victims and survivors? How so? You mean something that inspires camaraderie and trust between people of different faiths isn't going to make this a more trusting, less terror-prone world in tiny increments?

      We know we have enemies. As Timothy McVeigh is (was) our witness, they aren't confined to any religion. At some level, people must acknowledge that we don't make the world safer by making more enemies.

      Let's stop figuring out ways to hate each other and figure out ways to coalesce around something we can all agree upon. The fact is that in September thousands of Muslim Americans showed up at the nation's capital to say exactly that. Did you know?

       John Young writes for Cox Newspapers. E-mail: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

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