Last morning, a few of my friends and I got into a debate. So much so, that we flooded a friend’s wall on Facebook with our opinions. Sorry, S:-).
What did we discuss? The newest, unnecessarily politicized issue of whether to build a mosque and Islamic community center near Ground Zero. If you don’t already know the controversy, here is the deal in a nutshell: Sarah Palin opposes the building of mosque while Barack Obama supports it. Hillary Clinton has refused to take a stance. And I think Newt Gingrich’s words are what ruin peace in this world. But end of the day, it’s all about politics. Sarah Palin's extreme views--did we expect any better from her? She is getting more popular with the conservatives. But is Obama so "okay" with the center because he really believes in it or so he can win the Muslim votes in the next election? I hate dirty politics and political moves, so I can’t help but wonder if any of them really care about the root of the controversy.
I have said it innumerable times, and I will say it again. It is wrong and inhuman to label a religion bad. It’s a shame that humans continue to stereotype and act upon their toxic thoughts. What’s much worse is that we allow ourselves to fall prey to what the political leaders have to say!
Not all Muslims are extremists. How dare we make such a heinous assumption! Every religion has its share of "bad seeds" or radicals.
A church in Florida has decided to burn copies of the “Quran” on the anniversary of 9/11. That’s disgraceful and ridiculous! My friend Sahar told me that in certain parts of the US, people have voiced their disapproval over building of mosques in their neighborhoods. If that’s not blasphemous what is? America was built on religious freedom. Individuals should be allowed to practice their own religion, and no one should be able to take that away. That's First Amendment 101 for you!
But Ground Zero is different. It's the site that changed our world. I don’t think it should be up to the federal government or any religious group to decide what gets built there. Did any of them go through what New Yorkers did on 9/11? If they did, they would know that in this city we don't ostracize people based on their faith. Even today, Muslim women in NYC wear their headscarves but do not get "looks." Middle-eastern street food and vendors are as welcomed as hot dog-sellers. If I remember correctly, post 9/11, NYC saw fewer hate crimes compared to the rest of America. You should have seen the turn out at the Pakistani Sufi Festival in July 2010. An image of solidarity very few cities in this world can represent.
Has anyone tried to understand the sentiments of New Yorkers who voted against the much talked about Center? They lost their dear ones there! When hurt, people think from their heart, not brains. There is no logic, just pure emotions. It's not about right or wrong then. It's the wounds that do the talking, not hatred necessarily. I bet, with the best of intentions, if the Klu Klux Clan wanted to build a Center in deep pockets of Harlem, or if the Germans wanted to do the same in Israel, they would face similar responses.
At this time, emotions are soaring both amongst Muslims and non-Muslims. Politicians and media personnel are taking sides and expecting the same of others.
As my friend Hena pointed out, people today are too busy being politically correct. I couldn’t agree more. The desperation amongst adults, to be “liked” by all, is so nauseating. C'mon people, you aren't in high school!
I have friends (well-educated folks in extremely well-paying jobs), fourth generation Americans, who have said to me at one point, “Dude, my mom wouldn’t have been okay if I married a Muslim. I don’t think I would have wanted to marry one either.” When I argue for moderate Muslims, I am told, “Sweta, not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims.” Interestingly, the same people, to sound accepting, suave, and unbiased, post these links on social media networks supporting the building of the Islamic Center. At parties, they condemn narrow-mindedness. Seriously? If that’s not hypocrisy what is?
Some things in life aren’t just black or white. I hope my Muslim friends understand that just because politicians and people say that they are cool with an Islamic Center being built doesn't mean that they aren't closeted-bigots. Similarly, just because certain New Yorkers oppose the building of a mosque at Ground Zero doesn’t mean they hate Muslims. Or consider them as terrorists! Not everyone thinks like Sarah Palin or Newt Gingrich.
For instance, I don’t want a mosque built at Ground Zero. For the same reason, I don’t want any religious building there. Not a temple, a synagogue, or a church. People died on 9/11. Humans with real families and flesh and blood. What the hell does that have to do with any religion?
I am sick of the religion-card. It makes people blind, emotional, and defensive. Religion can give you a sense of identity but should not be the only tool you use to define yourself. No religion is above humanity. And no religion is perfect!
In fact, I want religion and state to be separate. Maybe we should build businesses at Ground Zero or some sort of urban development, so this city can make up for some of its monetary losses. Help those who lost a loved one--a primary bread winner, perhaps. And I want a small shrine built in memory of those dead.
It should be up to us New Yorkers and their officials to decide what happens with Ground Zero. I am sorry but Obama and Palin didn’t live in my city when we were struck by terrorists. Our resilience brought normalcy back into our lives. Yes, we did it by ourselves! So, why should they get to choose how New Yorkers deal with their loss?
I will continue with my rants in a live interview, which starts in a little bit (do send love, even if electronically) and will post the clip next week. Until then, be good, try not to judge, and learn to accept.
More until next time,
Copyright © 08.19.2010
“Look back, to slavery, to suffrage, to integration and one thing is clear. Fashions in bigotry come and go. The right thing lasts” ~ Anna Quindlen