Monday, 16 August 2010

Mosque Near Ground Zero

There are plans to build a mosque near the site where the World Trade Center collapsed during the Septermber 11 terrorist attacks.

According to the article Obama Denies Backing Ground Zero Mosque in The Age, President Obama one moment supported the idea but then toned down his support of the proposal.

I would have thought that the American Constitution supports freedom of religion and therefore building a mosque would not be a problem. However, the article claims that some Republicans have "described the plan as an affront to the families of victims of the September 2001 terror attacks." The article also says the following: "New York Republican Congressman Peter King accused Mr Obama of caving in to political correctness."

This comments about political correctness makes no sense. Political correctness refers to altering language or behavior in order to not offend others. In other words, it refers to politicians not being frank and honest but rather pandering to the norms and values of the public or the masses. Since about 70 per cent of Americans are against building this mosque, being for it is therefore politically incorrect, which I suspect is the reason why Obama toned down his support.

The terrorist attacks during September 11 were an attack on American values such as freedom of religion. To then ban the building of a mosque and therefore to deny freedom of religion is to go against American values. By banning the mosque you are effectively spitting on the American Constitution, behavior which would be very insensitive in light of the terrorist attacks.

Of course, this line of reasoning is what I would expect from a normal and reasonable person. But I am not naive and understand the political reality, which is that many people have prejudices and believe that the religion of Islam as a whole is responsible for the September 11 terrorist attacks. It is in my opinion unreasonable to hold this opinion. Within all large religions there are factions that are extreme and violent and there are factions that are moderate and humble. Among Jews there are the militant Jews (e.g. Jewish Defense League) and there are the moderate reform Jews. Among Christians there are the extremist Westboro Baptist Church ( versus the moderate Catholic church. The same applies with Islam. There is the extreme and violent terrorist organization that is Al-Queda and then there is mainstream Islam. Some argue that a quick reading of the Islamic sacred scripture (the Koran) reveals text that incite violence, mysoginy, and so forth. This may be true, but the sacred scriptures were written during different times when different values applied, so women were seen as subordinate. We see extreme elements in not only the Koran but also the Bible and even the Jewish sacred scriptures of the Torah and the Talmud. The Bible is homophobic, mysoginistic, and even calls for disobedient children to be stoned to death. But how many Christians actually do this?

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