Of Mosques and Madness and Mid-term Elections

The concept of a mosque a couple of blocks from Ground Zero has unleashed the ugly side of American politics, where those who profess tolerance have none themselves. Instead they have a hefty dose of prejudice, jingoism and stupidity and it is all on display.

Is a mosque near New York’s Ground Zero a triumph for radical Islam or a one-fingered salute from an otherwise tolerant society?

Americans are dividing (again) into obvious camps over just who or what they are at war with, thanks to Republican rocket scientists of the Palin/Gingrich ilk who are doing a deft job at turning Islam into a religion of terror because some terrorists who attacked the United States were Muslim. There’s nothing better for election business within the US than a little toxic terrorism trickery from these deepest of Republican thinkers.

You can’t miss their glee at the ease in deliberately presenting the building of an Islamic community centre that will have a mosque within it, as proof of all things evil – including their little favourite that Obama is a closet Muslim, again ‘proven’ by his call for every person within the US to be able to practice the religion of their choice. That includes Muslims.

It has got to be said that this mosque madness was not helped by Obama appearing to do a back-flip on his original statement, resulting in him looking like he thought he’d gone too far, and trying to qualify his religious freedoms sentiment with a “didn’t comment on the wisdom” of building a mosque at 51 Park, two blocks from the old Twin Towers.

Palin and Co. hold that this is defiling sacred ground. Presumably other unsavoury businesses nearby like strip clubs, or for that matter an established mosque four blocks away, should be bulldozed to protect her self-professed ‘discomfort’.

If only she knew the discomfort of having to wade through her ravings….and then to borrow from her extensive linguistic repertoire, “refudiate” them.

The insanity of this debacle is that it is based on so many wrong premises.

What is proposed is a fifteen storey community centre, open for all, and comprising usual community centre stuff – a pool, library, restaurant, gym, auditorium. It also includes a place for Muslims to pray. That includes the Muslim workers who are employed on the Ground Zero (re)construction site, and perhaps the families of the innocent Muslims who were amongst the 3000 who lost their lives on 9/11.

Perhaps the Republicans would have their discomfort alleviated if these Muslims were also removed from working on, or visiting the sacred ground.

The other major problem with this issue lies in the calculated conflation of ‘Islam’ and ‘terrorism’. Anyone who takes a second to consider reality knows that they are not one in the same. Muslims are no more a monolith who should take the blame for the 9/11 attacks than all Catholics having to take the blame for peadophile priests. Maybe Palin could do a quick check to make sure there are no Catholic churches close by either.

There’s also the fact that the Imam behind this mosque idea is exactly the sort of tolerance preaching Muslim those who fight extremism need to embrace.

But tolerance is not a concept familiar to opponents of this centre.

Instead they prefer to carry around banners warning “Islam builds mosques at the sites of their (sic) conquests and victories”, and chanting “no mosque at Ground Zero” in public meetings designed to hear both sides of the story. The best display of paranoid delusion came from a self-described right winger who enlikens the mosque to a Trojan horse, warning that it too came as a gift…the ‘moral’ of the story being that by accepting the mosque the “enemy” was being let inside the gates!

Newsflash darling, the enemy flew in and wrecked havoc, and a peace-loving moderate Sufi Imam by the name of Feisal Abdul Rauf is not the enemy. Al Qaeda is, and its leaders will be chuckling away in their caves somewhere, marveling at their ability to ‘out’ such ‘infidel’ stupidity nine years after the event. Imam Rauf is exactly the sort of Muslim Al Qaeda despises…and as the adage goes, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

But this is not about the benefits of taking a good long hard look at the Constitution – which by the way Obama was upholding in his freedom of religion message, despite Tea Partiers and their ilk consistently accusing him of tearing down that very Constitution.

This is the latest in a number of protests across the States opposing the building of mosques. In Temecula, California (which when I last looked is quite a few blocks from Ground Zero), a Muslim community has outgrown the former warehouse it uses as a community centre and prayer venue, and now wants to build a new centre, complete with mosque.

On their way to Friday Prayers, these Muslims are often confronted by Tea Partiers carrying placards that define mosques as monuments to terrorism…and these wise and witty protesters claim, straight faced, that even Muslims who have embraced the American way of life secretly want to destroy it all and replace the Constitution with Shari’ah law.

It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad.

Not surprisingly, as the country divides, so too have the families of the victims of the 9/11 attacks, and for them the stirring of this issue will tug at their emotions, and has already pit some against others.

But again because some of the friends and relatives don’t like the idea of a mosque so close does not make a case to expunge Muslims or their places of prayer from the vicinity. How far away would they suggest is safe enough? Three blocks? Five blocks? Nowhere?

And why hasn’t there been similar protests around the Pentagon building in Washington? It has a mosque within its walls. It too was a target of the same band of Islamic extremists. It too fits the Palin hallowed ground criteria.

In three weeks when the ninth anniversary of 9/11 is acknowledged this issue will still be raging, and as Americans deal with crippling debt and unemployment, you can bet your bottom greenback that the shadow of mosque madness will loom over the November mid-term elections. It is after-all perfect bumper-sticker politics, where the facts never get in the way, where no amount of vitriol is too vitriolic, no fear-mongering too jingoistic, and a President with Muslim roots is fair game.