“Bigotry is the disease of ignorance, of morbid minds; enthusiasm of the free and buoyant. Education and free discussion are the antidotes of both.” – Thomas Jefferson (Author of the Declaration of Independence)
By now, almost everyone’s aware of the NYC mosque controversy has made its way to mainstream news media, Twitter, Facebook and talk radio. It is breeding a rising hysteria against Muslims. Many protests have gathered now against proposed mosques around the country – in other parts of NYC; Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn and Midland Beach, Staten Island and in other states – California, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee and Wisconsin to name a few mosques that are being opposed.
The big issue in the news this time is a building of an Islamic community center aimed at multi-faith dialog called Cordoba House, open to all faiths in Lower Manhattan more than two blocks away from “Ground Zero” where the World Trade Center once stood. It will house an auditorium, spa, basketball court, swimming pool, classrooms, exhibition space, community meeting space, 9/11 memorial, and, yes, a prayer space for Muslims. That is what the bigots of America find objectionable.
I lived in NYC for 13 years. In this frenzy what people seem to miss is – there was actually a “mosque” (prayer hall) in the World Trade Center itself where people gathered for Friday prayers. Every year Ramadhan is still celebrated in the Pentagon where 184 people died on 9/11. Ramadhan is also observed in the White House every year when the President hosts Iftar dinner. But since this is an election year, politicians have tried to build up the extremist hysteria further – Sarah Palin (on Twitter), Newt Gingrich, Rick Lazio (campaigning to be the next Governor of New York) and others are joining the frenzy of Islamophobists and bigots. On the other hand, I applaud CNN’s Fareed Zakaria for his actions. He returned a medal and award he got in 2005 back to the Jewish Group ADL for their opposition to the community center.
The Cordoba House (the “mosque” as our biased media calls it) is named after the city of Cordoba, Spain – which was capital of Muslim Spain. Around the 10th century that was the most populated and coolest city in Europe.
The Muslim period in Spain (Here’s an article on the subject http://tinyurl.com/2eykgqt) is remembered as a “golden age” – where Muslims, Jews, and Christians living in peace built a vibrant and extraordinary civilization. It had universities and libraries, public baths, roads with street lamps. Literature, poetry and architecture flourished. They had built a flourishing culture and prosperous civilization during a period when London was still a mud hut village and most of Europe was still in the “Dark Ages”.
The Muslim period in Spain began in 711 AD and ended in 1492 AD with the Spanish Inquisition (religious persecution of Muslims, Jews, non-Catholic Christians by the Catholic Church which had banned all other religions). If anyone was found believing in Judaism or Islam, they would be called “heretics” and burnt at the stake.
The founders of America did not declare this a Christian nation but one for any believer or non-believer of religion. Read Thomas Jefferson’s Bill of Religious Freedoms. Jefferson wrote in his Autobiography, in reference to the Bill of Religious Freedoms:
“Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed by inserting “Jesus Christ,” so that it would read “A departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;” the insertion was rejected by the great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohammedan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination.”
The US Constitution guarantees that Muslims in this country have as much rights as do Jews, Christians, Hindus to live or worship freely as long as they do not infringe upon the rights of others to do the same. Muslim heritage in this country goes back to Christopher Columbus and his famous voyage of 1492. Columbus’ pilots were Muslim.
What is today happening in America, where Muslims are being prevented from building a place of worship, is just plain hatred, bigotry and racism and nothing but the Spanish Inquisition all over again.
President Obama made a statement in his Ramadhan Iftar Dinner speech which I highly recommend reading – here’s an excerpt:
“But let me be clear: as a citizen, and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country. That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country, and will not be treated differently by their government, is essential to who we are. The writ of our Founders must endure.”
Read President Obama’s full speech at: