When Religious Freedom Affects “Real Americans”: The Mosque Near Ground Zero

I really sometimes stand in awe of the political memory of the collective American people.  I still stand that in general we don’t remember from week to week barely what happens at the intersection of politics, economics, religion and the general social climate of the day.  Those of us who do keep up and try to maintain a memory of these issues come off as rabid political bots with nothing else better to do with our lives.

But, in addition to an American public that is appears to be as malleable as silly putty in the hands of a crafter, mainstream media is the hand that is shaping the public.  But we need to be aware that these media conglomerates are headed by persons with a particular political slant and they know what power they wield and God only knows what backroom conversations and deals they have with elected political leaders.  And it’s common knowledge that the new kid on the block in the 2000 Election was FoxNews and that FoxNews was the first national media to call the election for George W. Bush and make the other news organizations seem behind–and the news director at the time was Bush’s first cousin.

The current situation for me is situated around Obama’s recent comments on this mosque to be built near ground zero. WaPo reports that

One day after President Obama defended the freedom of Muslims to build an Islamic complex near New York’s Ground Zero, he offered a less forceful version of that position on Saturday: Yes, Muslims have that right, Obama said — but that doesn’t mean he believes it is the right thing for them to do.

Speaking to reporters during a family vacation visit to Panama City, Fla., Obama reiterated the stand he took Friday night at a White House dinner observing the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. “In this country we treat everybody equally and in accordance with the law, regardless of race, regardless of religion,” Obama said.

But he went on to explain that he was not endorsing the construction of the Islamic center. “I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there,” he said. “I was commenting very specifically on the right people have that dates back to our founding.”

For me, with my background, this is an issue is a “slam dunk” when it comes to the legal and Constitutional ramifications.  The first Amendment clearly allows for them to worship in a free space and unrestricted.  And New York city hall would have had to find some real archaic never enforced ordinance to probably prohibit them from erecting the building that they want.  But, even past the legal and constitutional issues surrounding this story is a philosophical and a religious ethics problem for me.  This tandem of philosophical beliefs and theological underpinnings rooted in Americanity have reified themselves into this vitriolic and one-dimensional bigotry that we see being spewed from the conservative media and GOP political hotheads from the House Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner to even leaders within the Democratic party.

Building on the site of the projected to be erected The Cordoba House in lower Manhattan

Philosophically, I think its interesting that just in the past two weeks we were embroiled in this 14th Amendment issue as it related to the ongoing immigration debate in border states and about “what the founders intended” even though, the “founders” didn’t enact this amendment.  Even so, the debate circled like vultures waiting for the animal to finally expire around the “original intent” of the amendment.  So in this case, we’re barely hearing about the 1st Amendment right of these Muslim Americans to erect this mosque known as the Cordoba House, as if due to their religious affiliation that their rights should be abridged so as to not affect the sensibilities of “real Americans.”

This is about where I get off this boat; I’ll swim back to shore thank you very much.

Even before the warped ideal of religion imbrues its way into the philosophical debate like a cancer strangling the life of its host until death, these “real Americans” who are against this Ground Zero Mosque feel morally and ethically superior to Muslims thank to the pervasive nature of this country and how we’ve always treated the other.  As ABC World News Tonight pointed out on Sunday night that there are four strip clubs and an off-track betting all within four blocks of Ground Zero, so what’s the true philosophical issue about Ground Zero being “hallowed ground”?  I didn’t know “real Americans” appreciated their adult entertainment on so-called sacred ground.

I think even more so than philosophical compunctions, this debate is fueled by this deep-seated and warped religious theology that mixes American imperialism with Christianity.  This type of rhetoric is spewed from the halls of Congress to church pulpits like venom from vipers waiting pouncing for a kill.  This venom that these blowhards are injecting into the consciousness of listener is the neurotoxin that paralyzes the brain from thinking and the nervous system–creating a vegetative state where one can’t think, talk, speak or listen.  We see this when people are walking around with signs making the claim that this would be a “victory mosque” and that Muslims worldwide are happy of the terror that befell this country on 9/11/

These people control the thoughts that all of Islam has terrorist ideals and that the Muslim faith as a whole is anti-American.  They paint with a broad brush, speak in generalities based on myths and false claims as if every Muslim is a terrorist in the waiting.  Let’s be clear, this country was attacked by Al-Qaida, not the Muslim faith.  And for me, the level of subconscious hegemony that surrounds the nature of this argument and the lack of historicity is simply mind boggling.  Opponents of the Cordoba House speak as though this country was inherently theirs and the founders of the United States had been here for thousands of years!  What’s even more troubling is that Muslims had been meeting in the building prior to this controversy for prayer anyway and no one gave it a second thought, at least not to the tune of making it a major national media spectacle.

These so-called “real Americans” would have us believe that Islam is about to take over America and that we must “hide our kids, hide our wives and hide our husbands” because they’re out here converting everyone.  The jingoism that is interlaid with religion is allowing evangelical Christians to not even enter conversation with persons of other faiths.  Without a doubt we must condemn Islamic radicalism, I don’t think that’s up for a debate, but I think we ought to condemn Christian radicalism as well!  The only thing that separates Islamic radicals and Christian radicals is that those who adhere to violence and claim to be Muslim actually enact their faith convictions; Christians sit in their churches and just talk a lot and blow a lot of hot air.

Don’t take that aforementioned statement that I am endorsing Christians to become suicide bombers or take to the streets in favor of their 2nd Amendment rights and begin torching mosques like KKK  night riders did in the postbellum south burning black churches where ministers and congregants dared be “uppity Negroes” who spoke against the Jim Crow south; no, I can’t endorse violence of any kind.  But I do subscribe to the philosophy that got Bill Maher kicked off of ABC shortly following the 9/11 attacks when he said those that flew the planes that crashed into the WTC weren’t the cowards.  And I believe that violence begets violence, so the adage associated both with Malcolm X and now Rev. Jeremiah Wright that “the chickens are coming home to roost” is applicable.

Again, let me say emphatically, that I do not condone violence and that terrorist cells within the Islamic faith and culture need to be swiftly dealt with, but by the same token, we have to take a look at ourselves: we’re spewing the same hate that’s alleged against us.  We hear more from our elected officials and political spazzlewhorfs that bloviate on television speaking against the Muslim faith as a whole than any Muslim American we’ve ever seen interviewed on TV.

And we wonder why they don’t like us.

Apparently this is an issue about cultural symbolism.  Yes, it’s fueled by the deeper philosophical and religious issues, but it’s manifesting itself as a problem about cultural symbolism.  So much so Rep. John Cornyn (R) of Texas was quoted as saying flatly “This is not about freedom of religion.”  Republican strategist Ed Rollins puts the issue of constitutional religious freedom in the context in which most opponents of the mosque are viewing this situation “It’s probably the dumbest thing that any president has said, or candidate has said since Michael DuKakis said it was OK to burn the flag.”  The flag being a symbol of Americanism, and Ground Zero holding equal value as a symbol.

Basic semiotics states that our symbols are mere markers or “signs” that point to a greater meaning.  Both the flag and Ground Zero point to core American values that even greater than the actual object themselves.  “Real Americans” have a cultural sensibility issue; they’re sensibilities are easily offended.  That’s why mainstream media and the conspiratorial and clandestine “powers that be” are in collusion with each other produce and image that is palpable to “real Americans.”  This image keeps black and brown faces at the bottom of the well and never portrayed in a positive light.  Not upsetting this sensibility is what allows Dateline to run an hour long program on gun violence in black male youth under 25, but never consider running a program on black males who are urban professionals, only urban criminals.  Or projecting an image of American ethnocentrism that keeps Islam as part of that “other” group in a country that has the icon of the Statue of Liberty with the storied line that says “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” while yet we squash plurality for the sake of some retroactive belief of patriotism rooted in racism and imperialism like a roach on the underside of a heavy foot.

W.E.B. DuBois said the main problem facing the 20th century was the color line.  It’s situations like these that make such a statement applicable even for the 21st century as if to suggest that in one hundred years we’re still doing the same: Rinse. Wash. Repeat.

Keep it uppity and keep it truthfully radical, JLL

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7 responses to “When Religious Freedom Affects “Real Americans”: The Mosque Near Ground Zero

  1. It’s interesting to read things like this from a new overseas location.

    Your post is spot on. In my new location, it’s quite common to have Muslim neighbors. Hell, my current location is only a few feet away from a Muslim bookstore/school/center. This kind of conversation wouldn’t even be had here; as a matter-of-fact, IF it was had here, it’d likely be initiated by the political party here that’s notorious for being racist (and unpopular). Over here for the most part, it’s live and let live, which suits me just fine. *shrugs*

  2. I feel that they should be able to build the mosque. right now the US is looking pretty hypocritical however, Just because they are muslim does not mean that they were the ones responsible for the 9/11 attacks.

  3. This has turned into a side show. I’m still looking for these jobs that Obama was talking about. Obama should have kept his mouth shut, Harry Reid should have kept his mouth shut. Should they build almost 2 blocks from ground zero…probably not (you know how pseudo Christians in america do) but they have the law on their side. People can protest and complain all they want but the building is still going to go up. I’m sick of people saying we live in Christian nation. That is a lie. With television shows like the real houswives of (pick your state), restaurants like Hooters and sports like midget tossing and we are a Christian country!!! The founders of this country aren’t even the holy rollers people make them out to be. America is for anyone to practice their brand of religion. Not just one religion. The Jews had problems with this back in the day trying to set up their houses of worship or have we forgotten about that?

    • We don’t live in a Christian nation. There are some Christians who don’t want the Mosque built because it doesn’t allow them to think of America in the idyllic way they would like. There are many who would like to convince themselves that America is a Christian nation even if they know deep down it isn’t true. But everyone knows that believing a lie never got anyone anywhere.

      For me, acknowledging the fact that America is not a Christian nation has only improved my walk with God. I think the constant desire among many to constantly tie America to Christianity has only caused confusion and frustration among the faithful and non-faithful alike. When you’re constantly trying to convince yourself that “America is a Christian nation” then you are less likely to remove yourself from those aspects of American culture, that as a Christian, you shouldn’t take part in.

      It’s because of this refusal to acknowledge the truth, that you do have Christians who watch the real housewives, you do have Christians who go to restaurants like Hooters, and you do have Christians who watch sporting events that only promote debauchery (what is midget tossing anyway?). Their inability to separate their faith from the culture/country they live in is what allows them to take part in things that are against Christian principles. The bible says that if a man even looks at a woman with lust in his heart, he has committed adultery, yet Hooters is packed to the brim every weekend so men can ogle at waitresses in short shorts and low-cut tank tops (And no one give the excuse about the hot wings, because they’re not all that…okay, they are great, but that’s besides the point :)

      Yeah, but if more Christians stopped believing that America=Christianity, then they would probably take aspects of their faith more seriously. They also wouldn’t be so frustrated because they would learn to place their faith solely in God, and not a governing body, or a marriage license, or a plot of land in the middle of New York City.

  4. “Don’t take that aforementioned statement that I am endorsing Christians to become suicide bombers or take to the streets in favor of their 2nd Amendment rights….”

    In this climate? That’s exactly how everyone WOULD take your words, LOL. Or rather, that’s how everyone would be told to take your words. And you’d be the new public enemy #1 for the next five minutes until the next one comes along. That’s how this works. You say something, someone lies about what you said, and the lie becomes the truth even though the original words are easily looked up.

    I really don’t know how our sociopolitical way of life can sustain itself in this new reality. The Obama era, so far, has been a study in just how far gone we are already. Controversies like these, built on dishonesty and shameless fearmongering, are par the course.

    • @Marbles

      Hence the fact that I wrote the following statement. Nonetheless, this somewhat proves AverageBro’s theory about Obama being bad for race relations because essentially we’ve become polarized even more–or that’s how the conspiratorial media is portraying it.

      Truth be told, we no longer have a “press” in the same way the framers understood the dissemination of information, clearly we have a media.

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