With the debate thus far being wrapped in religious, constitutional and nationalistic rhetoric, whether or not a mosque should be built near Ground Zero should first be a decision for New Yorkers. For years, Vermont kept Wal-Mart out, arguing that the corporate retail chain was simply not an appropriate fit for the rural character of their state. If a majority of New Yorkers feel that a mosque is an inappropriate fit for the site of the 9/11 tragedy, this is not an affront to Islam anymore than forbidding the construction of a porn shop next to an elementary school is an affront to either pornography or primary education. Grown-ups recognize that some things are simply inappropriate and those pushing for the construction of this mosque should grow up and show their neighbors a little respect, as even now the president-who while supporting the supposed “right” to build a mosque near Ground Zero- questions the wisdom of its placement.
It should be noted the extent to which this story is largely a manufactured controversy, when you consider that the proposed mosque would be built two and a half blocks from Ground Zero-which is further than the current mosque just two blocks away and not too far from another mosque that has been in the same neighborhood for years. Perhaps even more interesting is the role conservative talk radio has played in fueling this controversy, with certain hosts insisting that they have no problem with Islam per se, only what certain radical Islamists have done-like the murder of 3,000 innocent civilians on 9/11. I share their sentiment.
Indignation toward foreigners who would dare meddle in other nation’s affairs or kill one’s countrymen is quite natural, and yet so many Americans-particularly conservative talk radio hosts-still cannot comprehend that this understandable hatred is by no means exclusive to them. Did radical jihadists attack America on 9/11 for what we “are”-our “freedom” as George W. Bush insisted and Obama echoes-or specifically for what we “do” on Muslim land and to Islamic people?
Taking credit for the attacks, 9/11 mastermind Osama Bin Laden was very clear about his motivations: “Allah knows it did not cross our minds to attack the towers but after the situation became unbearable and we witnessed the injustice and tyranny of the American-Israeli alliance against our people in Palestine and Lebanon, I thought about it. And the events that affected me directly were that of 1982 and the events that followed – when America allowed the Israelis to invade Lebanon, helped by the U.S. Sixth Fleet. As I watched the destroyed towers in Lebanon, it occurred to me punish the unjust the same way (and) to destroy towers in America so it could taste some of what we are tasting and to stop killing our children and women.” In addition to what many consider an unqualified support for Israel by the U.S., Bin Laden also cited the permanent presence of American troops on the Arabian Peninsula after the Persian Gulf War and sanctions placed on Iraq in the 1990’s, in which over half a million children died-equaling 170 9/11’s. When asked by a 60 Minutes reporter, then Secretary of State Madeline Albright called the deaths caused by U.S. sanctions “worth it.”
Most Americans don’t hate Islam-they simply hate what certain radical Islamists did to us on 9/11. Likewise, most who subscribe to Islam don’t hate America, but do hate the multiple tragedies that have been visited upon them by the United States, far exceeding the destruction of 9/11. There was a reason Iranians-who despite their leadership would be some of the best natural allies for the United States in the Middle East-marched in the streets, holding candlelight vigils for the victims of 9/11. There was also a reason Iraqis danced in the streets. Our “freedom” had absolutely nothing to do with either.
If Americans find the presence of a symbol of Islam near Ground Zero unseemly, imagine how Islamists view permanent occupation of their own land by a country they see as committing as many, if not more, tragedies? If this proposed mosque in NYC is ominous and insensitive, how do you think Iraqis feel about the Green Zone in Baghdad and is their distaste not justified on the same grounds? By and large, most Muslims are not jihadists but polls have shown that many at least understand what motivates radical jihad. By and large, most Americans are not anti-Islam, but many still understand what motivates their countrymen to be angry about the possibility of this new mosque-an anger that also energizes support for endless and unlimited foreign intervention in the name of 9/11, worsening and widening an already vicious circle. And as Americans opposed to building the mosque at Ground Zero continue to insist that they don’t hate Islam, only what some do in its name, they would do well to recall or educate themselves as to what their government has done and continues to do in America’s name-forever fueling a needless hatred that will continue to cut both ways.