This site is dedicated to offering solutions for survival in the event of a natural catastrophe, a man-made catastrophe, political unrest or a terrorist attack. Yet somewhere in the midst of preparing for such events, we cannot afford to divorce ourselves from the political realities around us. Our Founding Fathers did not shrink back from being engaged in the political landscape of their time, and we should not do so either.
We are in the ninth year post-9/11. The hole in the world at Ground Zero still echoes with the reverberations from the crashing Twin Towers and the bodies of those that plummeted to their deaths rather than face the fiery inferno behind them. A Pennsylvania field still bears the scars of a plane that was heroically brought down by passengers unwilling to allow themselves to be used as the instrument of death for an unknown target.
Now what began as a move to restore a building much in need of reclamation near Ground Zero in Manhattan has become a symbol of all that is right and perhaps wrong with the current political and societal atmosphere of America. At one time called a mosque, then reinvented as a cultural center, now once again a mosque, the building of Cordoba House just two blocks from the Ground Zero Memorial begs a number of questions. And everyone, it seems, now feels compelled to offer answers. Mayor Bloomberg stands solidly behind the planners of the mosque while New York’s Governor Patterson has sought to mediate placement of the mosque to a less offensive location. Now President Obama has vacillated on his stand, further stirring the pot of opinion.
So what should we think of a mosque planned within sight of the final resting place of thousands intentionally murdered in the name of Allah? In truth, there are radical voices on both sides of the issue. Some on the left see the mosque as a shining example of American tolerance and fair-mindedness, while others on the right have made it their rallying cry for the coming November elections. Both are making a serious mistake. One mistakes tolerance for reasonableness, and the other needs to put a little more faith in America’s common sense.
The main argument for the location of the mosque is it will stand as a testament to America’s commitment to religious freedom and equality of all people. Wouldn’t it be nice if the people planning the Cordoba House Mosque believed in the same principles? A little history lesson is in order at this point. The name, Cordoba, refers to the city of Cordoba in Spain where Islam reached its peak of rule on the European continent. The Imam of the proposed mosque in Manhattan, Faisal Abdul Rauf, has often referred to the supposed religious freedom of that period in Muslim history as inspiration for the name of the new place of worship. The problem with such rhetoric is the tolerance of Cordoba is a myth. Christian and Jews alike suffered tremendous persecution through the rule of Sharia law. All that kept most alive were oppressive protection taxes demanded by their Muslim rulers. Resistance was more often than not met with the sword. Considering the extended history of the name chosen for the mosque and Faisal Abdul Rauf’s recent history of direct ties to Hamas and Saudi Arabia, one can hardly consider his call for tolerance seriously.
What is really being missed in this argument is reasonableness. If friends of Timothy McVeigh petitioned to build a place of worship across the street from the Federal Building in Oklahoma City, you can be sure city officials would promptly find a way to squelch that endeavor. When Catholic nuns planned a site hear Auschwitz, they quickly changed their plans when they realized it was offensive to the Jews and their families that suffered there. In that case, the nuns’ intention was purely one of reconciliation and peace. Even so, they were reasonable and moved elsewhere.
To those looking to make political capitol out of this controversy, a word of caution is in order. For many of us in the United States, September 11, 2001 is permanently underlined in red in our memories. I doubt many recall that day marked the United Nations International Day of Peace, a phrase about as meaningful as Congressional ethics. But I dare say the vast majority of Americans do remember realizing the world as they understood it changed as the black smoke of burning jet fuel overcame the brilliant blue sky above New York City. Radical Islam had struck at the heart of two of our greatest symbols, the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and was it not for the bravery of men like Todd Beamer and others on United Airlines Flight 93, it would have been a third, the Capitol.
Nearly three thousand souls were fodder that day for the hatred of a wing of Islam bent on dragging the rest of the world, at gunpoint, along with it toward its supposed Paradise. But that was only the beginning. Thousands of young men and women have given their lives at the bequest of two Commanders’ in Chief to continue the fight against the groups that financed, trained, and commissioned the initial terrorists that threw us into the current struggle in which we find ourselves. One couple, whose names matter not because they represent so many more, remembers September 11th all too well. It was the day their youngest son, in the Army less than a year, embarked on a journey that would eventually land him as deep in the conflict as one could get. Since that time, they have prayed as he left for Iraq and rejoiced on his return with a Bronze Star. Prayed again as he left small children and a wife to head to Afghanistan, surviving countless missions on the Pakistan border. Now their joy on his safe return home fades as he prepares for his third, and probably most dangerous, tour of all. And to this point, their story is one of the better. Their son, their daughter-in-law’s husband, and their grandchildren’s father, has come home relatively unscathed, with his final chapter yet to be written. But for too many others, the book has sadly already been closed.
Perhaps the politicians would do best on all sides to stay out of this one and just let the people speak. Maybe some have forgotten what Ground Zero represents but most of us have not. To those who say the placement of a mosque in New York City is a local issue, there are many mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, friends, and neighbors that would respectfully disagree.