Friday, September 10, 2010

Building and Burning

Recently the US has faced two major stories related to Islam, first the story about the proposed Islamic cultural center which would include a mosque and then a story about a small non-denominational Christian church in Florida that decided to hold a “Burn a Qur’an Day” on September 11th, then cancelled it and then said maybe.

In both cases the world has chimed in loud and clear. While the majority of 9-11 victim families, New Yorkers and Americans remain firmly against the proposed centers’ location, they’ve firmly run up against the very reason America was created, freedom of religion and freedom of speech. Watching politicians that are against the center nuance their statements has been interesting and watching President Obama take both sides of the issue even more fascinating but at the end of the day it would appear that the reality of the situation comes down, not to legal rights, but more importantly to local sensitivities. The Imam who has proposed the center has for some 28 yrs run a mosque roughly 10 blocks from what is now being called ground zero so here’s my question, why not open a center without a mosque at the new location and continue to operate the original mosque? I guess the easy answer would be it’s not convenient to have to move several blocks away 5 times each day to pray and I get that it’s a good answer, so, my second question why not move to a location that allows the center as presented to be constructed in a location that suites everyone instead of pushing forward with your legal rights while setting yourself up for failure. Just ask President Obama how that whole health care bill has worked out for him and the Democratic congress, they pushed ahead with something that wasn’t popular and in the end they won and will most likely lose a great deal more in November. I also wonder what the Imam would say about free speech if a Jewish group decided to open a kosher butcher shop specializing in pork next door?

In the case of burning the Qur’an, you once again find that the law is very clear and has been reviewed up to the Supreme Court level (flag burning upheld) you can burn, books, flags, records and people in effigy but just like the Islamic center case is it morally right to do something that isolates so many people, while the Attorney General and Secretary of State and even Sarah Palin have spoken out against the burning.. Having been stuck in the first of many protests related to the upcoming book burning I can tell you first hand that the people of Kabul were more than convinced that only a President can order such a vile thing to happen. I know what you’re thinking, how ignorant but you need to understand that average citizen of Afghanistan has been raised in a tribal system whereby only the most senior member of the tribe can order people to do anything so when they try and translate that to the US government they don’t recognize the Congress or the Supreme Court as being co-equal partners but only see the President as the senior member of the American tribe and therefore he must be behind the burning. When General Petraeus said this burning would put American troops in danger, and the Canadian Prime Minister said the same about Canadian Forces and civilians they were understating the issue. This is not just another book and people seeing it that way or comparing it to a bible are misinformed, this is something so much more to Muslims and just the rumour of mishandling has sparked vicious riots both here in Afghanistan and around the world.

Perhaps this is the perfect time to have this discussion as we remember 9-11 tomorrow and talk about supporting our troops in their efforts we often say that what the world needs is freedom and democracy but as noted above we have two examples of how freedom and democracy can have very messy results. I truly hate to say this but I don’t believe the construction of the Islamic Center should be prevented. I think that all parties should continue to respectively attempt to convince the Imam to move his center but at the end of the day we must respect his legal right. As for the burning of the Qur’an again I don’t think the government can or should step in to stop this, but again I believe that this Pastor should fully understand the consequences that will come from his stunt and hope he realizes that burning the Qur’an doesn’t make you holy.

If we want peace between denominations we need to get past legal rights and starting talking about ethics and morals, doing the right thing and avoiding doing the wrong thing as well as self acknowledgement of your failings or your faiths failings.

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