Sometimes love is an uphill battle.
I listened earlier this evening to an interview on CNN with Imam Rauf who conceived the idea of the community center which is/was to be built about 2 blocks from Ground Zero in the general neighborhood where he and his congregation of American Muslims worship. He was interviewed by Soledad O'Brien, someone who I generally have great respect for. She didn't so a bad job here, but I really thought she had a bit of an agenda - that her opinion falls on the side of the argument that says they should not build there. I can't tell you how often she cited a poll alleging that 71% of all Americans oppose the building of the center.
I've never trusted polls (having taken a few) and I still don't, particularly polls taken in the midst of a massive spasm of hyperbole and hate speech and general melodrama. I don't know the questions asked. I don't know how they were phrased, how nuanced they were. Maybe I'm a dewy-eyed optimist, but I have trouble believing that close to 3/4ths of my fellow citizens oppose an AMERICAN Muslim congregation building a community center and mosque in the neighborhood where they have already been worshiping for 27 years. This congregation didn't just move here. They lost members in the 9/11 bombings. Their members participated in the recovery and rescue operations. They are AMERICANS.
So anyway, I thought the Imam did a pretty good job in the interview, maybe a little too careful, but he has been quoted out of context before, so he has reason to be cautious. For anyone interested, I'm going to post the 4 segments of the interview below this post. Among the things he said were that he was open to finding another site, but that whatever compromise happens, it needs to be done carefully so that the extremists on both sides - particularly those abroad who are already using this furor to fan the flames of hate and distrust - don't get to use the outcome as "American hates Muslims propaganda."
Anderson Cooper's program followed the interview and he had a panel of two people opposed - a carpenter who is lobbying unions to refuse to participate in the construction process and a woman who lost a brother along with Fareed Zakaria and someone else whose name I forget. While I don't think that those opposed necessarily should have had their minds changed by this conversation, what stunned me was their reaction. He had proved them right. They heard a totally different interview than I did. When he expressed concern about the Koran burnings (as have our generals and others), because it could stir up unrest in the Muslim world - he was "threatening them." When he said that we need to take the conversation out of the hands of extremists on both sides - he was personally insulting them. It made me sad. I couldn't find video or I would post that along with the Imam's conversation.
In any case, this - in my opinion - is a man waking against the wind, trying to find a way to take his faith back from a few fanatics and to bring people into dialog. There is so much fear and suspicion and Islamaphobia (even of non muslims) that it takes great courage to speak at all.
On a slightly different subject, I sometimes feel disappointed that President Obama doesn't speak out more often on these kinds of things, but there's a sense in which he is in the un-enviable position of being damned if he does and damned if he doesn't. If he defends a black man, he's anti white. If he defends some white person, he's not black enough or he's pandering. If he defends a Muslim, it proves that he really IS a Muslim and not a Christian and throws more fuel on the fire of those who live in fear and hate. I keep wishing he would say something about the idiots who are planning to burn Korans (in the name of Jesus of all things), but the intolerance and fear mongering and rumors have made it so that if he says something it's as likely to inflame the situation as to quiet it. This pastor is indifferent to putting the lives of young soldiers in jeopardy. He's also pretty clearly indifferent to the teachings of Jesus, but that's another whole story.
I don't know. This is long and rambly, but I know my country is better than this. I know we are. I hope we are. Tomorrow (when it becomes available) I'll post a wonderful piece the Daily Show did tonight on religious intolerance. It was brilliant. And this clip of Fareed Zakaria - explaining what Sufi Muslims believe and more (but very succinctly) is wonderful and worth watching.
and Jon Stewart
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
|Weekend at Burnies|
Some things I'm grateful for today:
- voices of peace
- food stamps
- freedom of religion
- Jon Stewart
- Delaware Opportunities
- my scanner
- my computer
PEACE BE WITH YOU!
Happy Rosh Hashanah