Monday, August 16, 2010

Religious Tolerance and Religious Extremism

According to Google Maps, there are currently at least eight places of worship within three blocks of Ground Zero in New York. However, people across the United States of America have trouble allowing one more. People talk about how insensitive it would be to put a mosque near Ground Zero, or how thoughtless or what have you to the people who died on 9/11 it would be, but I think Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York put it best: "It is only insensitive if you regard Islam as the culprit as opposed to al Qaeda as the culprit. We were not attacked by all Muslims. .... There were Muslims killed there. There were Muslims who ran in as first responders to help." He's also mentioned the fact that there is a mosque in the Pentagon.

A number of politicians have criticized the president for speaking up on this issue; it should be mentioned that his comment spoke to the constitutionality of the issue. His critics' comments weren't to disagree with constitutionality though, but to say that he's out of touch with Americans. What worries me about this is that a lot of these politicians who jump on his case about this are the same ones whose electors and supporters are yelling about how the current administration is trashing the Constitution. And I think that the president has a right to speak towards constitutionality, since his oath specifically says, "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

The truth is, it would be unconstitutional for him to say anything besides “[Muslims] have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country.” Because that is what the Constitution grants protection for everyone to do in our country.

Now as for the argument that it's insensitive to people who lost someone on 9/11 or too soon or what have you to build a mosque in the area, Debra Burlingame, co-founder of 9/11 Families for a Safe & Strong America spoke to this. "In a breathtakingly inappropriate setting, the president has chosen to declare our memories of 9/11 obsolete and the sanctity of ground zero finished." I can understand that to a degree. But I'm also no stranger to grieving, having lost people in my life who were very important to me – and one of the things that is vital to recovering after loss is that you manage to forgive and to let go. How soon is too soon? It depends on each person, but I think that 10 years after the fact (because I don't think that the mosque would be built this year) is reasonable.

There's also a bigger issue here that's worth discussing, and that is the one of religious extremism. People these days are all familiar with religious extremism in terms of Islam, and a lot of people assume that because of this familiarity with it, it must be an accurate representation. But a few things should be mentioned about this. One, a lot of really bad things are done under the name of Islam, but most of it is done for political reasons. It's just that Islam (really, any religion) is a great tool to use for that. In case you didn't know, people in other countries deal with it, too.

The National Liberation Front of Tripura in India uses the threat of violence to convert people to Christianity. All of the terrorist activities in Northern Ireland (car bombings, shootings, etc) are all to do with Christianity. Anti-abortion violence and killings in the US is perpetrated by Christians. The Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda's recruiting of child-soldiers, leading massacres, rape, mutilations, etc... are all done in the name of Christianity. And those are all modern examples. Looking back into history, religion and violence went hand in hand.

I'm not saying that all religions are bad, but I am saying that most religions have their bad elements. Ignoring that is just as bad as ignoring all of the good things that come from religion, and leaves a person with just as jaded of a viewpoint. So, I dare you to look critically at yourself before others.


Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.