Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Mosque

I tried hard to avoid speaking on this issue but I couldn't help it after a comment I heard riding the bus to work today "I am against it, let them go somewhere else." This has become in my mind beyond simply a political issue and has now crossed the line into question of human dignity and freedom and thus a religious issue at its heart.

The essential fundamental principle is the right of all people to practice religion, in this country, wherever they choose. There is not a blanket blame to be laid upon all Muslims for the atrocity of 9-11. Those who attacked the US on 9-11 and their supporters and trainers certainly are at fault for such a horrific crime, a crime against humanity in many ways. However, all Muslims were not complacent in said attack nor should Islam be relegated to certain locations as a result of 9-11. In the United States the entire purpose of the concept of Freedom of Religion is the ability, assuming you aren't preaching or perpetrating violence, to practice your faith wherever, whenever and however your community chooses to do so. It is this very freedom which as a Jew allows me walk the street of NYC, Missouri or Florida with a Yarmulke on my head, a tallit on my shoulders and a siddur in my hand - if I so desired. It is the same religious freedom which allows all of us to practice our religion as we choose. To me this represents the greatest gift America has given to its people. We are at home here because we are allowed to be ourselves.

The mosque near ground zero is no affront or disrespect to those people who lost their lives on 9-11 or to the families who continue to mourn their loss each and every day. In fact wouldn't religious intolerance be an affront to their memories? Wouldn't allowing bias, narrow minded and hateful views to win out disrespect their lives - for wasn't it just those things that allowed human beings to de-value human life so greatly that they flew planes into buildings. In Judaism every life matters, every life is filled with possibility and potential for godliness. Our responsibility is to ensure everyone has the ability to live in their unique, individual way. One of the ways we do this is by ensuring the ability to practice religion freely.

The mosque should be built, this is the United States of America may freedom of religion always reign as one of our highest ideals and values. If we live up to that ideal then perhaps the memory of those who lost their lives on 9-11 at the hands of fundamentalist who didn't understand the value of human life, human dignity and true freedom, will be a true blessing - ma'atah v'ad olam, from this moment forward.

1 comment:

Anita Susan said...

Hi Rabbi Elianna!

Last night we had a family get together. The issue of the Ground Zero Mosque came up. We had every point of view. Even the New York relatives were split on this.

Of course , the Muslim community has a "right" to build the mosque on their land. They have gone through the local political process and have initial city approvals.

But is it the right thing to do? Has this been handled in a healing way or a divisive way by the developers?

Note that I put this burden on the proponents of the project. When we remodeled our house, the first thing we did was to talk to the neighbors. This is true for convents at Auschwitz as well as mosques near Ground Zero.

As Rudy Giuliani points out, the developers have been insensitive and divisive.

Are the bereaved supposed to "get over it?"

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach says that the mosque proponents missed an opportunity. R. Shmuley says he would support the mosque on two conditions:
"First, that its builders consult the families of the Ground Zero dead, who are the people whose opinion matters most. Second, that the 13-story complex include a museum detailing the events of 9/11 with exhibits explaining the modern abuse of Islamic teachings by extremists and their repudiation by Islam itself. He says "the builders of the Ground Zero mosque squandered a unique opportunity to portray Islam in a favorable light...Given the huge media profile of this particular mosque, the organizers could have showed Americans how wrong they were about Islam. The builders could have ...[invited] all the families of the 9/11 victims ...to lay out their plans and obtain the families' reactions...to proceed with the greatest sensitivity and understanding."

As much as I heart Nancy Pelosi, the nice shot she took about mutual transparency in the mosque dispute was insensitive and hurtful, but it was a nice shot and I reckon Ann Coulter's comments about the 9-11 widows were even worse.

It is easy for the Right to blame the Left for the mosque, and for the Left to blame the Right for stirring the pot.

If the developers of the mosque truly want to promote interfaith peace, they will accept Cardinal Dolan's offer to mediate and reconsider the location.