Sunday, September 19, 2010


To start out a new week -- and take a little break from the recipes -- I thought I'd post something topical.  I recognize that this is a hot topic, and I know the opposing side of my argument.  Feel free to post your thoughts in the comments, as always.

We've been having a bit of a conflict in the US of A.  Well, we've been having a few, but this is the one I want to talk about.  In case you've been living under a rock, I thought I'd inform you that there is a group of Americans who want to build a Muslim community center in Manhattan.  The proposed site is near Ground Zero, and many Americans think it's disprespectful to the memory of the lives lost to build it near the place of the September 11 attacks.  Truth is, there was a mosque there previously (as well Muslim religious facilities within the Twin Towers themselves). 

The argument has become: does religious freedom exist in America?  "Tasteful" or otherwise, the project has been deemed perfectly legal.  The outcome is yet undetermined. The funds aren't even in place to actually build the community center, and the plan isn't to construct it in the immediate future.  But, in my humble opinion, that's not the real issue.  The issue is whether or not we're assuming that all Muslims are terrorists.  It turns out that a great many Americans are making that assumption.

Then, just before September 11 of this year, a pastor in Florida by the name of Terry Jones tried to start a "holiday" called National Burn a Quran Day.  Luckily, he called it off, but not before he posed as a Christian representative to the rest of the world.  If the terrorists are a case of extreme Islam, then Pastor Jones is surely an example of extreme Christianity.  And I feel sad about that image.  I realize that most Christians don't feel the way Pastor Jones does, but with the press he received and the attention we all gave validated his opinion.  So loving, isn't it...burning another person's holy book?  So kind, isn't it...spewing that kind of hatred for an entire group of people?

I've always maintained that one of President Obama's major accomplishments has been restoring our reputation in the world.  I think he is a great diplomat, and the rest of the world listens.  In the midst of the controversy, he made a statement (in part, please feel free to seek out the entire speech):

But let me be clear. As a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country. And 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 unshakable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country and that they will not be treated differently by their government is essential to who we are. The writ of the Founders must endure.

Last week, out of the blue, I got an email from a friend of mine in Denmark.  She and I have recently become reacquainted and I assume she knew little of my political opinions prior to this email.  When I asked her if I could post her email on my blog her response was:  "Go ahead and post it, whatever it takes to change the mind of just one person ;-)"

So. Here it is. Enjoy.

"By the way, I wanted to congratulate you on your president (Obama) again! I heard parts of his speech on 9/11 - or the day before - in which he insisted that we should not fight muslims but terrorists and that if you could build a church or a synagogue, then you could build a mosque as well. I really do believe that he is doing a HUGE leap for world peace saying those things. People in the entire world listens to what he is saying, and I know that for the many Muslims in Europe, this is so important. Especially the young Muslims here, when they become teenagers they often get this "who-am-I?" feeling, because they realize they are not REALLY turks (or whereever their parents come from) and if they feel excluded from the West as well, their only identity is being fundamental, extreme Muslims. However, when Obama says those things about being equal, I think they feel welcome and included and part of the society they live in. And it is strange, that what the American president says has this effect on Europeans - but that's just the way it is :-)"

So don't take it from me.  Take it from my sweet friend in Europe, who offers us another perspective and gives us something else to mull over.  We are not the only citizens of the world.  I think we'd do ourselves a service by looking outside of our own lives and loving everyone.  And as Christians, let our light truly shine.  Not only when it's painless and comfortable, but all the time.  Instead of carrying around signs of protest that speak of hatred and fear, can we not reach out with love?  Especially in a time when the world is fragile and people are hurting...can we not seek out peace?

"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:15-16


Krista said...

Fantastic. I agree 100% with what you have written here. Very interesting to hear the perspective on Obama and current events in our country from someone outside of the US.

ethiopifinn said...

Wow. I'm not even sure what to say, or I guess, what I really feel...
It doesn't make sense to me to burn a book that you don't believe to be true. Why even give it any attention at all? Not that we can ignore something to make it go away, but if one is a Christian, it is right to say so, and right to not accept teachings that don't agree with one's own belief system. If one is a Christian, he takes the Bible to heart, which does have some conflicting messages, but Christ turned the other cheek, and that is a clear lesson for anyone. And He showed love to the lowliest. And even in his most bitter moments of His short life, wished to change his lot, but knew he would have to carry out God's will.
I believe there are plenty of people who subscribe to Islam who are not violent. As much as many people would wish for it to be, it is not a religion based on peace. I am not trying to hate on Muslims. But I will not pretend otherwise. While I am absolutely not saying, or under the impression that Muslims are terrorists, I am sure of the feeling I have after reading the Qu'ran. Are there terrorists who kill in the name of God? Yes. Are there, among that group, Muslims who are terrorists? Yes. NOT ALL. I don't think those Muslims who are terrorists have anything to do with Islam. It is some other kind of phenomena coming out of desperation. But oppression is part of the culture of Islam. And it is not peaceful. I know people who are Muslim, I am fascinated with the traditions. I can appreciate the ritual of the practice of Islam, and see how following those customs could help a person feel closer to God. I know there are beautiful poems and prose written by Muslims.
Thank God I live in a place where I am not forced to subscribe to any religion, and that in this country, I can openly claim my Christianity. What I say here freely, I say as it applies to *my* life. I am not asking anyone to take my beliefs as her own. Last weekend I found some pages of the Bible on the was obvious they were burned. While it was a bit shocking, it doesn't change any of the words or teachings of the Bible. One may want to burn the Bible, but that action is for the burner, as it cannot change the precious words and lessons from my Heavenly Father.
That said, I don't live in NY, so I don't know what I'd say if I was walking to work in that area...but we do live under the law of the land, and a mosque in that building is legal. I attend a church 25 minutes from my home. It would have made me sad if someone told me I couldn't worship at that location.

and, GObama!

Leanne said...

Thanks, J, or your thoughts! Your insight is always appreciated!

There is a lot of objection in New York to the community center, but surprisingly, not so much in NYC. *shrug* Seems its the way of things.

I don't know enough about Islam to speak of its tenents. What I do know, though, with certainty, that within a group of people there is every type of person. Happy, sad, rich, poor. Angry, kind, giving, selfish. Just like any other group of people.

I am surprised to hear that it's not a peaceful religion. I guess I haven't given it a lot of thought either way, and of course I take issue with the idea of submission (but I suppose I do somewhat in Christianity as well), and cultural mistreament is a big concern. But most religion have controversial rites that would seem bizarre if you're not familiar with the religion.

Interesting. I have some reading to do!

ethiopifinn said...

I should have said that it has been a long time since i did any investigating. like over 10 years. You are so right about the cultural perspectives.
it is really difficult for most people I encounter to understand or accept that *some* people don't want to use birth control. It is a mystery and offensive to them, so that alone should remind me to say *I* didn't find Islam peaceful.

I still don't want to burn a Qu'ran, or artwork, for that matter.
Let it be. Whisper words of wisdom...let it be.

Julie said...

Oh goody, a hot topic! It seems people in general are very opinionated on this one. I was on the fence about it for a long time, actually leaning a little more toward “let ‘em build.” Now, I’m not sure and am leaning a little the other way. Naturally, I have a very lengthy opinion. :D

First, I actually have to respectfully disagree about a lot of Americans thinking that Muslims = terrorists. I think many are pretty well-educated on the difference, hence the disgusted backlash to Terry Jones (that one extremist minister to that one little church) and the constant media coverage of his terrible plan (which, unfortunately gave him… media). It was a slam felt by many different faiths who abide by holy books.

The mosque issue has become, like you implied, a hot political one. Not surprisingly, the Ground Zero site is currently a platform for accusations to be thrown left and right, frustration *breeding* from politicians, citizens, and religious leaders. It kind of scares me. People scare me. It’s no longer a state’s issue about a mosque being constructed- it’s the entire world watching and waiting: *can an Islamic place of worship be built in America, right next to a place where many Americans lost their lives to extremists who spawned from that very religion?* And some want to simplify it into: are ‘We The People’ lovers or haters?

But, this isn’t a simple issue. It isn’t just: are we a nation who adheres to religious freedom and is tolerant of everyone? There are many people, emotions, opinions, and lives (some tragically lost) involved in this case. And there’s questions that I’ve come across several times: what is the intent of the mosque being built there? Are the Muslim leaders, who want to build it, acting with compassion and love as we’d expect our own religious leaders to be or is a statement somehow being made? Those questions will be hopefully be addressed but none of this can be sorted out in the midst of the fear and anger.

My personal opinion is that it would be best if the area around Ground Zero was presently left alone (when in doubt, wait it out)… from all religions and politics. No churches, temples, mosques, politicians-seeking-votes, no winners, no losers. What the situation needs is a good, old-fashioned Time-Out. To make this a black and white, tolerant vs. intolerant issue will only further the divide and will not bring peace. Because of the circumstances and what transpired in that area, this is a sensitive case where people will need to work slowly and carefully together towards peaceable compromise. And they shouldn’t begin before blood pressures return to normal. Hopefully with calm, comes clarity. :)

That’s my (current) drawn-out opinion, anyway. “The pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple.” --Oscar Wilde

Leanne said...

Thanks, Julie! I love when you are very thoughtful.

I do agree with many of your comments, primarily that the truth is rarely simple.

However, my argument against taking a "breather" is: 1. there will never be a long enough break, IMO...if they decide to build it in ten years, will no one care? and 2. What about all the other proposed mosques being scrutinized by local governments now (Nashville, Madison(?))...? Surely the Ground Zero argument cannot be extended to those buildings.

Banning ALL places of worship is interesting, although, as I understand it, there is a high concentration of Muslim Americans in that area, so that ban would really only hurt them...

I don't really think it's that complicated. If they're following the laws of the land, let them build. More than likely, in time, things will die down. I'm again seeing a very blurred line between church and state.

Interesting topic.

Julie said...

I've researched some about the culture and Quran to try and understand it better and I'm kind of with you, Jenny. The *basis* of the religion doesn't seem to be love, but submission. That's not to say the people aren't lovING but it's partly why there isn't much for separation between church and state in Islam nations. That's why gov't appproved stoning still happens there, etc. Not a friendly, peaceful place to be a woman. None of that should give anyone a right to be spiteful, burn a Holy book, or be cruel or intolerant. We *do* need to be a light and act with love. I'm so glad we live in a nation where we have choices, can strive for better lives, and where we woman are valued as worthy equals. :)

Leanne said...

I do think if one read the old testament of the Bible (especially without studying it to understand) it would appear violent and judgemental (wrathful) as well! I'm not saying I'm an expert on anything Islam, just something to think about.

Julie said...

Oh, absolutely. I was going to mention that but couldn't think offhand the places where the Bible talks about stoning. Deuteronomy? It *is* good that we have a separation between church and state and I'm glad that I'm not spiritually governed by the old law.

And...I honestly don’t know if a break would help or not but I’d love to see this topic lose some heat before any final decisions are made. Not because Muslims shouldn’t have the right to religious freedom (we are all equals in this land and we *all* should be granted the same rights), but because it seems like a responsible thing to do in this touchy day and age. Especially while our soldiers are vulnerable overseas, fighting extremists. The plan to burn the Quran brought riots in places around the world and put our uniformed men and women at risk…

I’m not very up-to-date on the other proposed mosques being scrutinized. I guess it doesn’t surprise me with all the attention that this Center is drawing. I think it can be a dangerous road to head down, to oppress a certain group of people and deny them of their religious beliefs/wants. There are people of all religions who feel repressed.

ANYway, we all have to be so careful to be gracious to each other... this country will be what we make it. And we’re kind of in new, unknown territory right now, aren’t we? It’s pretty wild. I’d love to see what the history books will have to say about it.

At the end of the day, I’m glad it’s not me that’s the jury on these things. I pray for peaceful solutions. :) Whew!

Leanne said...

Peaceful resolution, in all things. You and me both. (hug)

Julie said...

Gah. This is what I hate about having only a couple minutes of Internet time to try and write comments while still gathering my thoughts- I make mistakes! I have to apologize and make a correction that kept me up late last night: I meant to say that from the *small* amount of understanding I gained from research, it seems to me that there is ‘emphasis’ in Islam on submission. Not the ‘basis’. The devotion that Muslims show to their faith is incredible and I believe they do it out of both love and submission to Allah. Also, I know people contest the importance of rituals but I think there is something to be said about a religion that isn’t afraid to quietly show the world that their faith is priority and they do that, several times every day. Humbling.