Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Transparent Ground Zero Mosque

A vision of the Cordoba House

The religious take on this sort of thing presents itself clearly, I mean, the take I’m charged to have presents itself clearly, although civility will not let me embody that viewpoint wholeheartedly, so I will just talk about this here on a cultural level (I believe I will talk about it spiritually in my other blog).
So what’s this now? An Islamic mosque, named Park 51 or the Cordoba House, is being built two blocks away from the World Trade Center, Ground Zero, the place where, on 9-11-2001, two commercial passenger jet airlines were hijacked by terrorists claiming to be adherents of Islam and steered into the Twin Towers, both of which imploded and collapsed, killing 3,000 people?

Perhaps at the forefront of general reactions to new development is that this is in bad taste. It seems an insult to the people who were tragically killed that day and is kind of a ballsy move on the part of Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf, author and activist who works to bridge the gap between the West and Islam, as well as co-owner of the Park 51 property with Sharif El-Gamal who purchased it in July 2009 and was originally going to make a condominium until Rauf convinced him otherwise. By building the mosque, which will also have an auditorium, fitness center, swimming pool, childcare services, bookstore, amongst other stuff, Rauf and his partner’s are claiming to establish “a center for cultural learning” for people of all religions (the name “Cordoba” itself refers to a learning center in 8th to 11th century Spain that Christians, Jews and Muslims attended, but can also be a reference to the invasion of the Spanish Christian city of Córdoba by Muslims in the 8th century). His stated goal doesn’t really seem to pacify concerns over the mosque’s location, especially in light of the fact that he reportedly has questionable connections to Islamic groups who have voiced anger against America in the past (he himself says that works towards nothing but peace and diplomacy), or the fact that he once said funding for the project will come from American Muslims but later said it will come from foreign Arab and Muslim nations. He could’ve built the mosque anywhere else without (understandable) protest, but chose this location, on which a piece of one of the crashed airplanes from 9/11 fell, to show that he wants to “push back against the extremists” and send “the opposite statement of what happened on 9/11”.

The feeling of this project being a deep national insult is indeed overwhelming. But however, a few other things come to mind:

If one urban black gang comes and shoots up your house, killing some of your family members, the rational reaction is not to suddenly believe all random groups of urban black people have no right to live in that very area. And I’m not saying that it won’t understandably be your reaction, I’m saying that it isn’t the one on which furthers thoughts and decisions should be based. The Muslims who are building Park51 aren’t automatically the same Muslims who flew the planes into the World Trade Buildings in 2001. Of course, I think, in this emotional and symbolic context, Abdul Rauf should be fully transparent and accountable with his funding, activities and personnel. If he is absolute about building the mosque here and expects it to thrive without violent attacks to bring it down, it cannot be with an indifference of the history of that particular spot in New York City, or even Manhattan alone. This project will certainly be an irrefutable and uncontestable insult if he decides to do whatever he wants without a strong attempt to gain the trust of the people who live there as well those who have had relatives and friends die in the 9-11 attacks.

Secondly, I have a bit of a problem with the idea that the relatives and friends of 9-11 victims suddenly have the authority to declare what is right and wrong for construction by any set of people in any given place. In the 17th century, The English hopped on their boats and came to America, which was already inhabited and cultivated by Native Americans. Indians were more than happy to do trade with the whites, and the whites in return destroyed their land, took their food supplies and burned down their houses. This kind of behavior lasted all the way up and after Andrew Jackson order the removal of Indians from their own land in the South in the 19th century, sending them through tribulations of death, starvation, disease and famine to the West.
The 8 or 9 Native Americans that are left today have to look at the buildings and temples constructed by European decendants on their own land everyday, and now the descendants are crying insult and indignation at this one mosque being built in the name of communication and community.
I mean, for Pete’s sakes……………there are White Supremacists bases IN AFRICA.
What single human can possess this much testicular fortitude?!??????
At any rate, I’ve never seen people in the States protesting this, and not even a meteor the size of Saturn on a 500-mile an hour speed course towards Earth can match the magnitude of that insult.

And no, my second point does not contradict my first. I know that today’s white Americans, the descendants of the imperialistic Europeans, are not the same people as their ancestors. But with this being the case, what kind of real effort by today’s “Americans” have gone to giving the Native Americans back at least most of their land and opportunity to persevere? How many popular Native American actors or authors or politicians do you know? Can you even count on both hands how many of them you’ve even seen in the last decade?

At any rate, despite my reservations about Park51, I say that they have a right to build it. But also, that their operation should be fully transparent, as putting an Islamic mosque right next to a place where Muslim terrorists killed 3,000 people and telling people that they should mind their own business will surely accelerate an understandably violent reaction against them.

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