Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Islamophobia: Not the America I Know

The 9th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorists attacks are on Saturday; it is an issue that touches all of our hearts. Being from New York City, it is an event that especially has meaning to me. For long as I live, I will remember where I was, the emotion on people's faces, the screams ambulances/fire trucks/police cars outside my classroom window, and my fear. The people who committed the attacks were radicals, who's only goal was to kill innocent American citizens to feed their own hatred.

Nine years later, you think that the wounds made between the American people and the Islamic community would have healed, and the American people would have came to their senses that it wasn't the Islamic faith or community who attacked us; it was radical terrorists. Apparently not. Terry Jones, the Pastor of the Dove World Outreach Center church in Florida, plans to burn Qurans on Saturday. For a church name like Dove World Outreach Center, its totally misleading. Its a good thing many Americans have stepped up and spoke out against this act of ignorance like Gen. Petraeus and Hillary Clinton. International figures like N.A.T.O. Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has denounced the Quran burning too. The real question is: what is happening in America?

The answer is that Islamophobia has again reared its ugly head. Just a few weeks ago, a Muslim cab driver in New York City was stabbed by a 21 year old. Yes, he was drunk. But then again, being drunk doesn't make you stab innocent people because of what religion they practice. Islamophobia has made it to the national headlines again because of Park51, the Cordoba Initiative, to have an Islamic Community Center two blocks away from Ground Zero. Take Newt Gingrich's interview on Fox News. It is totally ignorant, destructive, appalling, and shows true lack of judgment and character from a man widely speculated to announce his candidacy for the presidency.

People are opposed to this project (aka the falsely named "Ground Zero Mosque") because of sensitivity issues, or a "triumph to Islam". They argue that putting a community center glorifies Islam. But by Newt Gingrich and others equating building the center (or mosque as they like to call it) as a testament to Islam, they are saying that Islam as a religion was behind the attacks. They couldn't be more wrong in every aspect. The matter of fact is that it wasn't the religion or community of Islam who attacked us on 9/11; it was radical terrorists. Muslims are law abiding, good people just like you and me. Some Americans are brainwashed into thinking Islam is a destructive religion. Putting up a community center with a prayer room two blocks away (you cant even see the Ground Zero sight from where it is going to be built, I visited downtown this summer) is ludicrous and just shows how media bigots are spreading misinformation. Park51 is a community center, not a mosque. The center will have  recreational programs, a culinary class, a child day care center, youth programs, and a prayer room. It is two blocks away from Ground Zero, and for people who don't know, there is a small mosque in a basement of a building operating since the 1970s four blocks away. The basement prayer center isn't even enough to hold 20 people! In addition, during 9/11, the center helped bring food and other supplies to the rescue workers. That sounds really radical to me (sarcasm).

Its funny, again, how the conservative right, Tea Party and Republicans, have come out against this center. Aren't the conservatives the ones who say they champion the constitution (aka freedom of religion)? Looks like their true colors are showing here, and it ain't red, white and blue.

I am New Yorker, and I am an American. I mourn all who were murdered on September 11th, and as I said, this is very close to my heart. I grew up in an America where everyone was tolerated, regardless of race, nationality, and religion. Islamophobia is totally unacceptable, especially coming from figures in government and the media. I hope, that the American people can step away from this bigotry, and once again be the nation that I remember.

Kieth Olbermann did a fantastic monologue on the Park51 controversy. Whatever your stance on Park51, I ask you take the time to watch it, because he hits the nail right on the head.


  1. First off, Matt, great post; I agree with this 99.9%. I can kind of understand the "anti-mosque" argument, for the issue is a sensitive one, as you point out, but as you argue, to call the construction of an Islamic community center in the vicinity of Ground Zero a victory for Islam and thus the radicals who ochestrated and carried out the 9/11 attacks is completely off-base. To say that those radical Islamists are in the majority and thus representative of the Islamic world is false. Like far-right Christians, these people take Islamic principles out of context and use them for their own purposes while ignoring other ideals that don't directly serve their purposes. Also, why should it be considered a "triumph for Islam" when all Americans have the right to religious freedom? The mere usage of the word "triumph" implies that something was lost by those who follow Christianity/Judaism and that something is morally wrong with the construction of this center. To this point, I'd say you're completely right on the matter.

    However, I do disagree with your assessment that intolerance is a new phenomenon. In fact, I think there are many people who would disagree. Throughout the course of history, racial and religious minorities have been scorned by majorities, even in America. African-Americans, Latin-Americans, Asian-Americans, etc. have all experienced the "wrong side" (if one can call it that as horrible as that sounds) of prejudice here in the Land of the Free. In the political realm, homosexuals face daily problems (and have for decades) and don't enjoy the same freedoms that heterosexuals enjoy in the U.S.

    I come from a town not far from here, a town built on agriculture, which is an industry that, at least in our area, would not be able to function/prosper without cheap, migrant labor. Thus, when I was growing up, it always amazed me to hear racial slur after slur directed toward this fairly large segment of our society on which we were so dependent. Anyways, the point is: religious and racial intolerance has always been present in the U.S. It's a sad truth, and maybe it's cynical of me to say this, but I don't see this problem going away anytime soon.

    Again, great post! Just thought I'd share my thoughts.

  2. Thanks Braeden, I appreciate it! I do see where your coming from too, I did indeed phrase it a bit wrong in my post.