Monday, 16 August 2010

The Ground-Zero Mosque

This was something I actually saw ages ago on some Christian extremist propaganda video a few months ago, and didn't really think that much of it, because it didn't seem to be that big a news story at the time, at least over here.

Then, last weekend, Obama made some comments at a Ramadan dinner appearing to be in support for the mosque. Personally I thought he made some pretty good points, but apparently the Christian, Republican right didn't think so. Obama's comments sparked a fair bit of backlash and he's since retracted most of what he said, which annoyed me a little, because I don't think politicians should shy away from their beliefs just to please public opinion. Plus the backtracking hasn't helped much, except to disappoint the people who supported what he said in the first place, given that media outlets aren't going to give as much coverage to his clarification as they did for the original inflammatory speech.

The thing with this story is the ridiculous nature it's been blown out of proportion.

Sure, it is located within 200m of ground zero, but it's not like they're trying to get it built on the site itself. It's just in Lower Manhattan, and it's near a ton of stuff simply because it's in the middle of the New York CBD, which is where you'd probably want something like that.

Now I would say that sure, it was obviously going to attract some controversy and it probably isn't objectively the wisest place to put something like that, but I only say that from the point of view of "if you didn't want people to cause a fuss, you should have built it somewhere else", not "you should have built it somewhere else".

There are two main things which annoy me in this whole saga. The first is the continued bullshit approach of the Christian right and Republicans to claim themselves to be patriots, and to harp on about the constitution and civil rights and free speech, all that bullshit, but to then totally ignore it in a heartbeat if it could possibly work in a way that isn't their favour. When it comes to stuff like guns, the founding fathers wanted guns, America should have guns. When it comes to their free speech then it'd be a crime against America not to let them have it. Yet they apparently ignore the fact that the founding fathers aimed America to be a secular country. They completely walk all over the ideas of separation of church and state, and do their best to tie America into being a Christian nation.

They're quite happy for America to be the "land of the free" providing the people who are free are Christian, which is completely contradictory to the apparent principles of the founding fathers. If the roles were reversed they'd be crying out at the apparent injustice and destruction of freedom and liberty, just as the Muslim people behind this mosque are most likely doing right now.

If America is meant to be a secular nation, if American citizens are meant to have the freedom, the right to do anything which they want so long as it doesn't harm other people (which, really, this doesn't), then this mosque should be allowed to be built. If the principles of the founding fathers, which Republicans are so damn fucking quick to harp on about whenever it suits their own argument, if those principles are that important, then they permit the construction of the mosque.

The other thing that pisses me off is the way that the opponents of this mosque basically seem to make this fucking insane link that because the people behind 9/11 were Islamic extremists, then any remote link to Islam equates to a link to these terrorists. They seem to use the exact same ignorant Muslim = Terrorist equation as they do for Socialism = Communism (= evil), and it's completely incorrect.

This thing is an Islamic mosque. It is for the use of Muslim New Yorkers. It isn't the fucking Al-Qaeda headquarters. The 2001 September 11th attacks were not an attack from Islam. They were an attack from Al-Qaeda and from terrorists, who just happen to follow extremist Islamic beliefs.

The most fucking stupid comment so far has come from Newt Gingrich, a Republican congressman for New York, saying:

Nazis don’t have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust Museum in Washington.

Ignoring Godwin's law, that's just a ridiculous thing to say. The implication that all Muslims are equivalent to Nazis is just ridiculous, as is the comparison between 9/11 and the Holocaust. It might be odd to say that 9/11 isn't that big a deal, because it has changed the international politics of this century, but you really can't compare the three thousand innocent lives lost on 9/11 with the estimated six million Jews killed during the holocaust. Even the five and a half thousand American lives (and counting) lost in the resulting Iraq and Afghanistan wars start to pale the 9/11 attacks into insignificance (and that's not even counting over a hundred thousand civilian and allied Iraqi casualties).

And it's not even a good analogy, because Muslims aren't terrorists. It would actually be far more accurate for him to say that Germans don't have the right to put their embassy next to the holocaust museum. The perpetrators of the holocaust happened to be German, as the perpetrators of 9/11 happened to be Muslim, and it's just as ridiculous to imply that all Muslims are terrorists as it is to imply that all Germans hold and support Nazi beliefs.

Muslims are already massively prejudiced for a country that claims to be founded on secular principles, and is supposedly one of the most tolerant and democratic countries in the world. I understand that with the whole principle of free speech, American citizens will defend their right to voice concerns and anger over this sort of thing, but for just the same reasons of freedom and civil rights, the Muslims have the right to build a mosque there when they've gone through all the correct legal proceedings and have clearance to do so. It's just completely retarded for them to claim they have a right to certain aspects of society, and to then use those rights to try and prevent others from having them as well.

From the news articles I've read, most of this anger over the mosque and muslim social centre (which is called the Cordoba House, oddly enough, not "The Ground Zero Mosque" has come from people who have no direct attachment to 9/11 aside from being American. The vast majority of this outrage seems to be on behalf of 9/11 victims and their families, not from the families themselves. There's been no poll of the families, presumably for fairly obvious reasons, but I've seen reports that say some families support the mosque (or at least don't opposite it) so clearly the anger and offence isn't there for all of the people affected by 9/11.

Really, what the Republicans don't see is the irony of what they're doing, and the fact that rather than the mosque being a symbol of Muslim triumph and victory stood next to 9/11, it would be proof that while New York was scarred at the hands of Muslim extremists, the city is still accepting to the Muslim people. It would be a beautiful demonstration of the tolerance of the West, a brilliant message to the terrorists that the American people aren't the oppressive Christian assholes they claim them to be, and it would be a fantastic symbol that in the West Christians and Muslims can still live in harmony, despite what the terrorists have attempted to do, and despite how they would want things to otherwise be.

Except it won't, because apparently what Al-Qaeda says about America isn't completely untrue, and a good number of American people aren't tolerant, do hold prejudices against Muslims because of their beliefs, and that American Muslims don't have the freedoms that their Christian counterparts do. The terrorists have justifications for why they carried out the attacks on September 11th 2001, and all the people opposing the Cordoba House are doing are proving that those justifications could be correct. Which is, in my opinion, a far greater disrespect against the lives lost in the terrorist attack than the mosque could ever be.

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