Let me start by saying that I’m not a huge fan of the Muslim faith. There, I said it! I don’t hate Muslims, Arabs, or people from any geographic or religious background. But I’m not a huge fan of Islam. I don’t feel like it’s a very tolerant religion, nor does it treat women as equals, (or sometimes even as human beings) and I don’t feel that pride is man’s great fault or that submission is the answer to our salvation. I think Islam is due for a serious reformation, the details of which I have no interest in discussing here.
That aside, I say build the damn mosque. The organization that is proposing to build it is a peaceful one. They are moderates. They are just people who want to practice their faith together, and belong to an increasing Muslim community in lower Manhattan that has growing needs.
I’ve heard the argument that we shouldn’t have ANY religious institution built at ground zero. Well, first of all, they aren’t building the damn thing on the remains of the twin towers. They are building it 2 blocks away. That might not seem like much, but as a former major city dweller, I can tell you that 2 blocks can make a world of difference. Second, if you look at the map, you’ll see that there are already THREE churches there; The Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church, and Saint Paul’s chapel, all of which actually border Ground Zero. So that point is kind of moot, isn’t it? It’s already surrounded by religious institutions. I’ve also heard that there is a strip joint and a porn store near there as well. Sounds like a great way to “remember the fallen” to me…
I’ve also heard that it is insensitive to build it there. Again, why? They aren’t building the Mosque on top of the remains of the towers. It’s being built in an abandoned Burlington Coat Factory building. It’s going to have a pool and rec area open to the public. It’s going to be an inclusive community center. It is a place of worship, not a terrorist training camp. Islam did not attack our country. It may have been used as one of many tools that day in 2001, but the religion didn’t attack us.
We have to remember that it was terrorists that took down those buildings. And their purpose wasn’t just to destroy the buildings, it was to terrorize. It was to instill fear into the hearts of Americans. If we oppose this Mosque out of a fear of Islam, then haven’t they succeeded? We are a country that is supposed to champion religious freedom, not hinder it. Muslim Americans are every bit a part of this country as every one else, regardless of how they choose to worship.
I wondered a bit about what the “Buddhist” response to this would be. Then I slapped myself. I don’t want to give the “Buddhist” response. That seems silly. I didn’t automatically adopt a new set of ideals and beliefs the moment I decided to walk this path. The Buddha was not a divine law giver. I didn’t all of a sudden become a compassionate bodhisattva the moment I declared myself a Buddhist. The dharma and sutras are not written in stone. I don’t ever want to say, “well, since I’m a Buddhist, x.” Rather, I want the dharma to help and guide me. What I want is for my practice to move me in the direction of compassion and insight and wisdom.
So I would say that since my practice is moving me toward compassion, I would seek a compassionate resolution to the matter, one that involves the least amount of suffering (dukkah). Clearly for the Muslim community the wisest choice would be to build the Mosque. But what about the families of the victims that do are suffering because of this proposal? Shouldn’t we take their suffering into consideration as well? Certainly we should, and that’s again why I say build the Mosque. These people seem are projecting their hate onto an entire belief system, rather than those that perpetrated the crime. I wonder if it’s because they’ll never really receive the justice they’re looking for, since the terrorists died in the crash. They’ll never be held accountable for their actions, so the ones left here to grieve seek vengeance with the next best thing they can find: Islam, Muslims, Arabs. The axis of evil. Ghosts living in caves halfway around the globe.
And this is why I say build the Mosque. Once faced with the reality of peaceful, community-building Muslims, those left with their anger might be forced to really examine it, because they won’t be able to project it on to those at 51 park place. They might actually be able to let go of some of that hate they’ve built up, and begin to heal when faced with the reality that not all Muslims are evil, and that these people are their neighbors, not their enemies. That to me is the most compassionate response because it is one that deals directly with their suffering, even if it might be a difficult process.
“He abused me, he struck me, he overpowered me, he robbed me.” Those who harbor such thoughts do not still their hatred.“He abused me, he struck me, he overpowered me, he robbed me.” Those who do not harbor such thoughts still their hatred.
~ The Dhammapada