18 August 2010

Mosques and Religious Intolerance

There's a debate that has been going on here recently. It has something to do with whether it is okay to build a mosque near the site of the former World Trade Center, in Manhattan. Of course, given the circumstances, one could only imagine the political and religious and cultural repercussions this would ensue.

First, let's hear it from those who opposes. Sarah Palin says that building a mosque just a block or two away from Ground Zero is culturally insensitive and stabs at the heart. Newt Gingrich says that he will not agree to build a mosque near Ground Zero unless Saudi Arabia allows churches and synagogues to be built in Riyadh. Aside from that, opponents of the mosque even tried to declare the building located in 45-51 Park Place, New York, NY to be a historical site, but unfortunately, no it is not. The fact that rubble from the crashing World Trade Center in 9/11 hit the building doesn't make the building historical enough.

Okay, here's another sensitive issue. First of all, it would make you wonder why Newt Gingrich wants to take Saudi Arabia as his model of religious freedom. Yes, I understand that there is a second reading to this, in that he would want to deny religious freedom to Muslims unless Saudi Arabia gives religious freedom to non-Muslims. But isn't that saying that I won't be good unless you are also good? So if you're bad, I'll be bad too? What happened to the First Amendment? Isn't it the case that by denying the establishment of the Cordoba House, Americans are actually in violation of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, and more directly, the Free Exercise Clause of this said amendment?

From the 1930s to the 1960s, here in the United States, this Free Exercise Clause was the subject of numerous Supreme Court cases involving another religious group, namely, the Jehovah's Witnesses. The Witnesses won a majority of them, due to the fact that the First Amendment protects any individual from exercising their faith. And yet 50 years later, we see another religion trying to establish a cultural center and place of worship, and yet the populace is trying to erase it.


Oh right, because the World Trade Center was attacked by Al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda happens to be an Islamist militant group. Does this mean that their actions reflect the whole teachings of Islam? If one thinks that way, then one could also argue that the actions of the Westboro Baptist Church, known for its hate stance and protest activities against several sectors of society, should reflect the whole teachings of Christianity.

It is indeed rather ironic that this country was founded by people who were religiously persecuted in Europe and wanted a place that they could freely practice their religion, and yet 400 years later, these people are the ones trying to persecute others who also want the same.

But what can I do, I'm just a puny visitor, simply observing from afar.

(Ledge, from my Qorikancha Series)

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